Sunday, January 1, 2012

Garam Masala - When Bread Becomes Butter for Protests

Vikram Doctor blogs for The Economic Times:

Food and protests have always had a complex relationship, as this year demonstrated. Perhaps it was because it was a food vendor who set it off. Mohamed Bouazizi was a fruit vendor, one of the most ubiquitous and basic street trades, and it was exactly his ordinariness that him such a sympathetic, identifiable figure when, unable to bribe the authorities to get back his confiscated weighing scales, he set himself on fire. His ordinary helplessness galvanized Tunisia in ways the government could not respond to, and it fell, setting off a chain reaction across the Middle East.

Food has always been a pretext for protests. Ottoman sultans lived in fear of the day their elite Janissary troops would start to bang their pots, as a sign of discontent with food that could lead to rebellion. Gandhi’s use of salt is well known, but the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny, which some, like ET’s Swaminathan Aiyar, have argued was what finally convinced the British to leave India, was also partly instigated over poor food quality.

[ ... ]

Many of these quixotic struggles never quite succeed, and this can have unexpected food results. Life has to go on, even after a cause is lost, and many on the losing end have often taken to the food trade to survive. It is one of the easiest options, since people always have to cook and eat. The world is full of ethnic restaurants started by people fleeing failed protests to other countries.

In Mumbai, the growth of Konkani seafood restaurants is probably linked to the many mill workers from that region who had to find other ways of survival once they lost their great strike of 1982 and the mills started shutting down. The idea of the restaurant itself goes back to the French revolution when unemployed cooks from aristocratic kitchens opened eating places where anyone could eat the sort of food that only their masters could enjoy before.

But perhaps the biggest challenge that protesters face with food is just getting enough to keep their protests going. Protests can’t always be planned, but once they get going the need for a regular supply of food become critical. The Paris Commune realised this and an early initiative was to set up a communal food kitchen called La Marmite (the stew-pot) under a revolutionary named Nathalie Lemichel, a real life model perhaps for Babette.

In my column about Egypt I wondered if the protesters were sustained by the many stalls selling kushari near Tahrir Square and sure enough I found reports about how kushari had become the mainstay of the revolution, with people brining bags of it to the protests. Kushari is a mixture of rice, lentils and pasta topped with fried onions and a spicy sauce, a simple but satisfying food that fairly obviously has roots in Indian khichri.




Exploring Revolt in Greece

Exploring Revolt in Greece from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

On December 6th 2008 a police shooting of a 16 year old innocent boy in Athens started a two week revolt in cities around Greece. Three years on people march in remembrance of Alexis Grigoropoulos. Greece now is very much in social and economic turmoil. This films looks at the events surrounding December as well as an inside look to the often cases of revolt in a country that is sinking deeply in recession. This film also explores the role that anti authoritarian movements play in Greece.

Via From The Greek Streets

Occupy Boston BAT SIGNAL

On First Night 2011, Occupy Boston's Women's Caucus projected a bat signal on the wall of a building across from Copley Square.

We are the 99%. Happy New Years!

#Anonymous #Occupy #OpResolution

Greetings, We are Anonymous.

In recent months we have seen many triumphs for the Occupy movement, we've seen retired police join the movement, and some active police bravely choose not to follow orders. We've come to enjoy the support of many people serving in the military, and that of veterans of military service. We watched a sea of protesters march along the coasts, we saw a surge of protesters during op horizon, we've witnessed public officials cringe and cower before the people's mike, and in a note worthy gesture we have seen an emergency resolution in Cleveland calling for the support of the movement. We have seen homes reoccupied to save families from homelessness, and the true spirit of solidarity and determination among those who, despite freezing weather, continue to occupy even when their tents and shelter are taken away. We've witnessed our brothers and sisters occupy in a world wide show of solidarity, and have seen the movement spread beyond all borders.

We have also seen those in power adapt their efforts to destroy the Occupy movement, resorting to raids in the night and assaulting journalists in attempts to keep their actions out of the press and hidden from public scrutiny. We've witnessed commando styled raids as suspected leaders of the movement are arrested, we've seen infiltrators subvert and attempt to destroy groups of protesters on behalf of police and government agencies, and we have witnessed attempts to freeze, dehydrate, and starve out the movement as police have destroyed shelter and stolen food and drinks meant for the protesters.

While they have watched, we have watched them watching, their future plans for subverting and hijacking the movement are known to us, but for now let us discuss our own plans. We invite you to take the following resolution. We resolve that we will not allow our cause to be distracted by politics, for they wish to use politics to divide and co-opt us. We resolve that we will remain non-violent in our protest, for they wish to incite violence to destroy us. We resolve that we will be tolerant of each-others religious differences, for they intent to inflame religious prejudices to divide us. Let us resolve this new year to help save people's homes, let us resolve to protect and protest, on behalf of the down trodden and innocent. If you can do nothing else make it your New Year's Resolution to spread the message, this new year does not belong to politicians, it does not belong to banks or corporations. This new year is our year, the year of the people, let it forshadow the end of tyrants.

We are Anonymous the free and leaderless people.
We are Legion.
We do not Forgive.
We do not Forget.
Expect us.

Ignorance is Strength; a Reading from George Orwell's 1984

Black Bloc - Introduction

To The People
Who Don`t Understand
why Black Bloc Activists
Use Militant Tactics
To Destroy Corporate Property
Black Bloc Activists Are NOT Protesters
They are not there to protest
they are there to take direct action
against the machineries of oppression
Their actions are designed to cause material damage
to oppressive institutions
But much more importantly
they are intended as theatre
As a dramatized illustration
that even in the face of an overwhelming police state
the people still have the power
That the cops and banks aren't as powerful
as they try to convince us
and it really is within our power
to strike back
if they turn against us
And that defying authority
and subverting "law and order"
doesn't have to mean abandoning ethics,
or care for your fellow man.

These are vital lessons
that the public needs to be reminded of
now more than ever
Even if you disagree with the particulars
I hope most people can agree
that those in power
should fear the public
police blatantly and smugly
disregarding people's basic rights
it seems that they have lost that healthy fear
It seems they see the public as a docile mass
to be herded and controlled at will
Militant protest is an effort
to keep the threat alive
in a way that standing around
waving signs never will
and for that we should be glad of it

The more completely we forget our power
to strike back at those who would dominate us
the more complete their domination becomes

Apocalypse Soon

Daniel Baird reports in The Walrus:

Anyone who grew up in Europe or North America (and many who didn’t), whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, or nothing at all, has in some way been shaped by the texts that comprise the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. If you’re North American, the version that secretly haunts you is most likely the translation commissioned by King James and published some 400 years ago. It’s what formed our literature, our philosophy, and even our science; it is literally in the air we breathe. It’s what created William Miller, Harold Camping, and the New Agers who prophesy that the world will end at the winter solstice in 2012. “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the Earth,” the prophet Isaiah intones… “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” The text of the Revelation of St. John the Divine is even more vivid and emphatic: “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth,” proclaims the great seer of Patmos. “And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men, which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.” The passage continues, “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead Man: and every living soul died in the sea.” For Isaiah and St. John, the wrath visited upon the world by God, the earthquakes and seas filled with blood, is a response to human failure and vice, but despite all the destruction and carnage there remains at least the possibility of redemption.

The ever-expanding cadre of bestselling science, strategic, political, and business writers who make a living prophesying the less-than-happy human future would not ally themselves with literal readings of Isaiah or the Revelation of St. John, much less with eccentrics like Harold Camping, but the stories they propose seem remarkably similar. Although they appear secular, they are Biblical tales of the pillaging of the earth by human greed and vice and the inevitable reckoning. Redemption will come, if it does, through contrition, humility, and moral soundness.

The last time there was this much anxiety about the end of the world was after the Second World War and the advent of the atomic age. When
The New Yorker devoted its entire August 31, 1946, issue to John Hersey’s groundbreaking article “Hiroshima,” an intimate account of six survivors’ lives before and after the bombing a year earlier, it was the first time most people in the English-speaking world had become aware in a visceral way of the A-bomb’s destructive power. The harrowing scenes Hersey describes are, even now, sixty-five years later, impossible to get out of one’s head: the silent, blinding flash and then the literal erasure of the city; the soldiers with their melted eyes running down their cheeks wandering through the rubble. By the 1950s, it became clear that human beings had developed a technology capable of instantly destroying all life on earth. Countless novels, stories, and films that imagined nuclear apocalypse followed, and countless reinforced concrete bomb shelters were dug in the backyards of suburban homes.


Horst Mahler and the elephant in the room

The latest crime of this founding member of the Red Army Faction is ‘Volksverhetzung’ – a concept in German criminal law which bans the incitement of hatred against a segment of the population and is applied in trials relating to Holocaust denial.

That Mahler, casually throwing Sieg Heils around, was guilty of venomous anti-Semitism is without doubt. His closing trial statement – a curious mash of Hegelian philosophy and Old Testament fire and brimstone – can be read here, for anyone who’d care to.

But certain other aspects of that 2009 trial make uncomfortable reading too, and not least the judge’s assertion that Mahler had proven himself ‘unable to be re-educated’. At which point an elephant enters the courtroom and everybody tries desperately not to notice it…


Front-line '81 - A poem by Oscar Sparrow

A poem written during the Brixton Riots in 1981, recorded in 2011 on the publication of the National Archives from 1981 under the 30 year rule.

Taken from a collection of poems by Oscar Sparrow called 'I threw a stone'.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

Some writing on the matter this past year from Joseph D. Beldick:

The price of raw cotton is at a 140 year high and one of the unexamined consequences of this phenomenon is that it is becoming more expensive to print US dollars. In 2008 the price of manufacturing a dollar 6.4 cents. A short two years later it jumped to 9.6 cents. I wonder if it’s possible that the actual “demand” from quantitative easing 1 and 2 drove up the price of cotton? It’s doubtful; most of the currency issued by central banks these days is digital. It will be a strange, sober day when people’s blind faith in the status quo dissipates and the realization that their digital money is not even worth the paper it’s not printed on really sinks in. This is the essence of fiat; the only thing which gives the dollar value is how many of them are in circulation. So doesn’t it seem odd that the men in charge of regulating the money supply for the planet’s global reserve currency are not part of any government agency but a private corporation? Google “Jekyll Island, 1913”.

And. Nathan:

Who is it that benefits most from enthralling enough of the public’s perceptions, especially in times of political upheaval, to spend so much time, money and energy to manufacture the events of the recent past? This question is most easily answered by the examination of current events all over America. Who is it that has consistently received government hand outs, tax breaks, financial reward, overall fewer restrictions on conduct and enjoyed unprecedented growth even as the majority is faltering and suffering? Who is it that has been given free reign to mould the public discourse without either revealing themselves or their desired ends?

Historically, there have been many groups that could be directly linked to the driving force behind regressive movements. Their sympathetic allies are many and powerful and include, to varying degrees, almost every group that has worked against progressive causes in the past one hundred fifty years or more. The Robber Barons, those pejoratively named among nineteenth century industrialists, bankers and other moneyed elitists had their private armies and corrupted politicians. Their ideological and blood line descendants have kept up the drive to hoard the wealth of the nation, and the world, for themselves at the expense of the populace at large. Over time, their street level reach has expanded with every other aspect of their multi-national influence.

Executive Guide: Lives on the Line: Identifying the Enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan

Ms. DeBolt is a former Army officer. She developed the concept and material solution for the Biometric Automated Toolset (BAT), the Detainee Information Management System (DIMS), and the Multilingual Autmated Registration System (MARS), all currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. She developed her biometrics expertise in service of U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia. “We needed to ID people of interest and track them, not by using paper, but something unique to them and that would stay with them,” Ms. DeBolt recalls.

When troops deployed to Iraq in 2003, her team was charged with helping U.S. soldiers deny the enemy anonymity so insurgents could not easily blend into the local population. Beginning with prisoners and expanding to members of the local populace, U.S. forces now have collected biometrics on more than 3 million people in the two conflict zones. Because biometrics have been so successful in identifying enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, deploying units now receive training in collecting and using biometric information.

To develop biometrics and forensics solutions efficiently and cost effectively and to speed capability to the field, Ms. DeBolt uses rapid prototyping and agile development methods. She says she learned from her Bosnia experience to involve users in developing solutions from the very beginning. She takes programmers to Iraq to observe how soldiers are using the Biometric Automated Toolset to gather fingerprints, voice recordings, retina scans and facial images from prisoners and members of communities.



image from

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