A man from the town of Neguá, on the coast of Colombia, could climb into the sky. On his return, he described his trip. He told how he had contemplated human life from on high. He said we are a sea of tiny flames. “The world,” he revealed, “is a heap of people, a sea of tiny flames.” Each person shines with his or her own light. No two flames are alike. There are big flames and little flames, flames of every color. Some people’s flames are so still they don’t even flicker in the wind, while others have wild flames that fill the air with sparks. Some foolish flames neither burn nor shed light, but others blaze with life so fiercely that you can’t look at them without blinking, and if you approach you shine in fire.
for decades american liberals protested the military junta in burma in the name of human rights violations. and now deafening silence.
Crowded under tarpaulin tents strewn with rubbish and boxes of water, the Burmese and Bangladeshi migrants speak of horrors at sea: of murders, of killing each other over scarce supplies of food and water, of corpses thrown overboard. “One family was beaten to death with wooden planks from the boat, a father, a mother and their son,” says Mohammad Amin, 35. “And then they threw the bodies into the ocean.” Amin, an ethnic Rohingya Muslim, first boarded a boat from Burma three months ago. Now he is among 677 migrants who are being housed in a makeshift camp by the harbour in Langsa, Indonesia, after spending months in the Andaman Sea. […] Many of those on the ships are from northern Burma’s persecuted Rohingya minority, who have been denied citizenship and voting rights, even though many have lived in the country for generations. In the majority Buddhist nation, the Rohingya have continued to flee sectarian violence and poor conditions in refugee camps. Many do so by boat using people smugglers but a recent crackdown by the Thai government is believed to have led to some boats – and their human cargo – being abandoned at sea. In Langsa, Amin, a former farmer in Burma, tells of how his village was set alight in a violent attack several years ago. His mother, he says, was burned to death because she was too old to escape. More here.
Kinaan Malik: The anti-Muslim campaign has been led by Buddhist monks, who say their actions are in keeping with the demands of their faith. The principal anti-Rohingya organization, the 969 movement, takes its name from the nine attributes of Buddha, the six qualities of his teachings and the nine attributes of the monks. Its leader, a monk named Wirathu, has reportedly called himself the “Burmese Bin Laden.” Muslims, he told an interviewer, “breed quickly and they are very violent.” Because “the Burmese people and the Buddhists are devoured every day,” he argued, “the national religion needs to be protected.” The extremist monk has proposed a “national race protection law” under which a non-Buddhist man wishing to marry a Buddhist woman would have to convert to Buddhism and obtain permission from the state. The proposal has won support from Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, and may become law by the end of June. How do we reconcile the perception of Buddhism as a philosophy of peace with this ugly reality of Buddhist-led pogroms in Myanmar? More here.
with mrs zoeter in belgium. that’s me on the left, along with my sister and mom. the zoeters had this wonderful lake house where we spent many wonderfully languorous days. mr zoeter was the consul general for pakistan in ghent. his daughter karin now holds that post.
Adrienne Rich: Women have been driven mad, “gaslighted,” for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each other’s sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other. Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other. […] When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her. More here.
Paul Street: So this is how Barack Obama is moving into the final 20 months of his dismal neoliberal presidency, which he once (proudly) described as ideologically akin to the Eisenhower White House. He is nauseating much of his own Wall Street-captive party’s electoral base by trying to push through the absurdly regressive, secretive, eco-cidal, and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership treaty – a massive investor rights measure that promises to reduce wages, deepen inequality, undermine popular sovereignty, and assault already endangered livable ecology in the name of (what else?) “free trade” and “growth.”
[…] Obama and his fellow Democrats had no actual commitment to the progressive- and populist-sounding things he promised on the campaign trail – things that were well within their capacity to enact after Obama and the Democrats’ sweeping victory in 2008. As the liberal author, Harper’s essayist, and former Obama fan, Thomas Frank, observed on Salon last January, it would have been more than good policy if Obama had enacted populist and progressive measures (“the economy would have recovered more quickly and the danger of a future crisis brought on by concentrated financial power would have been reduced”). It would also have been “good politics,” highly popular with the nation’s mostly white working class majority— something that would “have deflated the rampant false consciousness of the Tea Party movement and prevented the Republican reconquista of the House in 2010.” As the onetime Obama enthusiast Frank had the decency to admit, the financial crisis “worked out the way it did”—with Wall Street unpunished, richer, and more powerful than ever—“in large part because Obama and his team wanted it to work out that way…When historians seek to explain the failures of the Obama years” Frank mused, “they will likely focus on a glaringly obvious, and indeed still more hard-headed explanation that the apologists for Obama’s enfeeblement now overlook: that perhaps Obama didn’t act forcefully to press a populist economic agenda because he didn’t want to. That maybe he didn’t do certain of the things his liberal supporters wanted him to do because he didn’t believe in them.”
[…] Obama administration and Democratic Party operatives and elective officials across the country have worked diligently precisely to destroy left progressive movements through a combination of repression and co-optation. Take the Occupy Movement, a populist uprising against the bipartisan corporate and financial oligarchy in the late summer and fall of 2011. It was crushed by a coordinated federal campaign of surveillance, infiltration, and violent assault, with the lion’s share of the repression carried out by Democrat-run city governments across the country. More here.
Aja Monet: If I have to get you to see me as you in order for you to affirm my right to exist and my humanity—this is not solidarity. We see oppression through a capitalist lens. If we offer our time, our energy, even our empathy and understanding—we look for the reciprocation. Where am I in this? What can I get out of this? We must acknowledge that to honor one life does not negate another. We have been taught to fear empathy as a means of survival by extension of material gain. At the core, how do we operate when we know our means of bread and butter is threatened by our moral compass within? While I do, like many, applaud Lauryn Hill’s decision to cancel her show in Israel, I question the framing of her statement which appears to take no real stance. How do I illustrate the complexity of a fence rider? The fence rider is a person who is constantly playing the tricks of politics, sitting in the middle, with no clear stance on grave injustices against humanity. What are the elements that are causing people to walk on eggshells around blatant and vulgar atrocities against human beings? We cannot afford to be on the fence about oppression. More here.
Tony Russell: BB King, who has died aged 89, was the most influential blues musician of his generation and the music’s most potent symbol. He represented the blues as Louis Armstrong once represented jazz, a single performer who could nevertheless stand, and speak, for the whole genre. Although much of his work, and arguably nearly all the best of it, was firmly within the discipline of the blues, King was unfailingly open-minded and interested when he found himself in other settings, bridging musical and cultural differences with affability and skill untainted by self-importance. More than 50 years ago the death of Big Bill Broonzy prompted writers to speak of “the last of the bluesmen”: it was premature then, as it would be to say it now, but it is hard to imagine any future blues artist matching King’s sway, in a career spanning 65 years, over musicians by the thousand and audiences by the million.
Dan Cohen: Throughout the winter, the uninsulated containers were iceboxes. In freezing temperatures with heavy rains and hail, families had no choice than to build fires in the containers in order to stay warm. “At night, I can’t get warm with eight blankets,” Youssef Najjar told me in January.
Now as summer approaches, the Mediterranean heat is turning the poorly ventilated containers into sweltering boxes. The caravans are unsanitary and cramped — sometimes with a dozen people per container — and makeshift additions built from wood and scrap metal have been attached. “We used to live in a big house and we suffered from the heat,” Youssef Najjar said. “But that doesn’t compare to what we live through now.”
Throughout the winter, promises of reconstruction kept a glimmer of hope among the population of the caravan. After donors gathered in Cairo and $5.4 billion was promised to rebuild Gaza, only a fraction has been allowed in as Israel, the Egyptian coup regime, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have colluded to prevent delivery of construction materials. Any hope has long since evaporated and the bitter reality of the siege is now undeniable. “Rebuilding my house is a lie. I heard about reconstruction in the media. It’s all bullshit,” Najjar remarked.
Worse yet, rumors are afloat that the caravan may be evicted by the owner of the land, leaving the families with absolutely nowhere to go. “As much as I can talk about it, it’s not enough — I can’t put it into words,” Najjar told me. More here.