Monthly Archives: December 2007

Srebrenica by Ted/FDM

The ever insightful Ted Swedenburg does it well here:

“One of the many fine songs on Fun’Da’Mental’s powerful 2006 release, All Is War: The Benefits of G-had, is “Srebrenica Massacre,” featuring vocals in Bosnian (a variety of Serbo-Croation, according to some) by Alma Ferovic. Since April I’ve given several talks about Fun’Da’Mental, which have included analyses of several songs from All Is War, but I’ve not had much to say about “Srebrenica Massacre….”

Read more.

Stairway to Heaven

The resurrection of Led Zeppelin at their 02 Arena event evoked long suppressed memories that lurch from the awful to the wonderful. In the awful column: bad versions of ‘stairway’ being hacked out by spotty youths in guitar shops (and now, I am appalled to report, regurgitated by buskers on the London tube where everyone is well sick of Crimbo carols – do these people know any good songs? we need a better soundtrack for the struggle home from bargain shopping/return of dodgy gifts).

And in the wonderful column, Led Zep’s return reminds me of this picture of a spiral staircase that once stood on the corner of Stuart Lane and Sudder Street in Kolkata (pic is from a slide, now covered in dust – click to enlarge). This as not, I hasten to add, a functioning spiral, nor have I gone all otherworldly heaven-oriented god-botherinly religious for the silly season – though the disorderly mental state of some denizens of the lodge in those days (circa 1988) might have meant several attempts to climb this thing were made. There was quite a bit of paranoid anxiety that perhaps suggested to some that escaping the mortal coil was a viable flight path (‘I’m a jumbo jet, I’m a jumbo jet’).

As everyone will no doubt gather from their papers this morning, South Asia in the news a lot today – Bhutto family rivaling the Gandhis for martydoms; cricket (India needs 499 runs to save the series); anti-tourist campaign in Goa – awful, wonderful and comic this time.

Awful: Benazir was memorably described as ‘the virgin iron pants’ by [Shlomo] Rushdie, which is now disturbingly ironic given Rushdie is firmly in the maw of the US ideological project, but in a lesser way than Bhutto, even as she was ever a pawn in the superpower democracy-terror game. Rushdie cowered down and changed sides, from left-ish wag to playboy gimp. She, however, only ducked occasionally, and seemed far more concerned with her power moves. Super-pawn might be a better description, since she saw her way to power paved with compromises born of Washington. Certainly we can be skeptical of her democratic record (awful and awful), elected to rule at Oxford Union and Pakistan (twice). Surely when we think of the democracy drive in Pakistan or elsewhere, supported generously by both the US and UK[!], we should wonder why personages, such as the General or the Iron Pantaloon, are so keen to play this figurehead role. Head of the People’s Party or General-not-in-uniform Musharraf, neither seemed likely to be able to do much more than the bidding of imperial masters.

No surprise that I’d say this is not democracy in any radical sense – as none of us know it. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, there is no disarticulation from the colonial machinations of ‘the great game’, of the border writing routines, of the geo-political intrigue (and yes, we also need a democracy movement in the UK). It is time again to ask why we have these pantomime leaders, whether local despots or their Global avatars – why are they tolerated at all? Why do we put up with these ‘leaders’? I am reminded of Voltaire’s suggestion for those who wonder why monarchs do not give up their hereditary power when most people would ‘prefer’ a republic: he said we should go ask the mice who wanted to put a bell round th neck of the cat…

Cricket: I also recall that there is a Led Zeppelin tune called ‘Kashmir’, and I am fighting temptation to dig it out to listen for any hint at all of people’s movement. In 1987 I also visited Srinagar and thereabouts, stayed on Dal Lake – and got to met some of the Kashmiri separatists. The place is again in the news today as the Indian Army are apparently ‘suppressing’ protests in the wake of the Benazir assassination. (I remember Yusuf Chopra who ran a Houseboat called The Neal Armstrong – there was a gold framed letter in the guest house from NASA pointing out that ‘Professor Armstrong thanked Mr Chopra for the invitation, but had no intention of visiting’). The soldiers patrol the Lake today (it freezes over in December, we played cricket on the ice – hence years of bronchial bleargh…hack hack).

Anyway, tourism to Kashmir was scuppered after 1989 (and today Goa, for different – SEZ – reasons, may soon be off limits), but the problems of Kashmiris have not been settled – go ask Mohammed Afzal. Again a set of troubles that reaches back to superpower geopolitics and the consequences of Imperial border design.

My grandfather once wrote of seeing a Zeppelin in WW1, saying his elder sister called him inside from the road when the Zeppelin drifted by, saying ‘ere Tommy, come orf the road before yer get bombed’ – no doubt in a Geordie accent I cannot reproduce.

The Goa protests, and the comedy antics of white dreadlocked waifs on winter sabbatical from Manali, will I hope be reported by Lia – I’ll put a link on the links page when that comes through.


Elena tells me: “Marc Twain said: “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats”. And sends this pic from Vienna to add to the buses as trinkets collection no doubt – we will take over the world eventually. Thx.

And while we are on the subject of Cats. Perhaps I will start a reading list to add to my ‘Politics of Cats’ piece in an early Stimulus Here:

For starters:

Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 “I am a Cat” Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing.

Kurt Vonnegut 1963 “Cats Cradle” New York: Dell Publishing.

Then add:

Burroughs 2000 “Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs” which has lots to do with his cats, like Fletch. Grove Press.

more to come…

Reflections on Complicity

Good pre-Goldies rectification stuff here from Leila on CASA [CASA is a Spanish acronym for Colectivos de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Acción. In English, that's: Collectives of Support, Solidarity and Action]:

“Reflections on Complicity
by Leila
June 18, 2007

It’s a party with too much food, an endless beer supply and a whole cast of music snobs (myself included.) In short, a Friday night filled with all of the standard tropes of our extravagant merry-making.

As the evening warbles past midnight and the conversation starts repeating, I slip away from the garden barbeque. At some point the beer has gotten warm and the decadence of the food left abandoned on the table has become upsetting to me. Troubled, I retreat to the house and lay down on the couch to sort through my cluttered thoughts.

The flat, green lawn shimmers in the moonlight and the white walls and ribbed, bare wood rafters of the quaint house remind me of a ski lodge. In the garden, fresh spring flowers blossom in perfect order around the fence and gate, which is black, tall and resolutely locked. Outside, around the grill, the sound of confused but exuberant chatter and trendy Ipod music drifts back to me.

It’s not until the next morning that my discomfort crystallizes into clarity. As I’m being driven back into San Cristobal in the backseat of a car with power-locks, automatic windows, and a deluxe CD player, I watch the life of the colonia I’ve spent the night in glide past me…”

Read more here

Xmas Teaches Kids to Love Capitalism

The ideal Present has arrived.

I rarely forward “Art” projects to lists, but since its the silly season and all things are excused in the interest of the ‘festival of teaching kids to love capitalism’, I though this would make a fine Xmas present for the person who has everything. It might take a little bit of doing (perhaps by interactive media lab people), but it would be great to have one of these with which to carve Marx’s beard into the Goldies back lawn.

Find out more here

And of course, not wanting to come over all Scrooge of past, present and future, just like last year (here) I send best wishes to you for 2008.

Queen to abdicate at Christmas??

Last night on Radio Five Live Andrew Bacon show, Aki Nawaz was a guest, along with some pro-royalist toff whose name I refuse to remember, talking about the Honours System in the UK – Knights, Barons, Orders of the British Empire (OBE) and MBE etc. Aki tried to argue for a more creative alternative, but hardly got his point in before Bacon was shamelessly begging to be gonged (we would oblige if we had a big enough hammer mate). All this was in anticipation of a report out today on reforming the Honours System.

Reform. Rubbish – get rid of it.

The first reason to abolish these honours is that its a leftover outdated plug for Empire (yaay Benjamin Z) – if we first of all accept that there is something to the idea of Nation (and I am not sure we can) we should be able to recognise that the idea of honours is bound up with an outdated aristocratic system, which cannot be reformed. It must be abolished, not tinkered with to be made to look human.

A first step to fixing the mess, is to recognise that we need a Republic – where a republic is a state in which “the supreme power resides in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly by them”. This choice should be neither by a paid lackey like the PM, nor by the Queen who seems to think handing out baubles [trinkets] is her most important duty. Pah, it is a hold over from the aristocracy and its got to go – replace it with a public vote along the lines of X-Factor!. While we might want to ensure that democracy can really be democratic – as there is no guarantee of that via phone votes as yet (thanks Ant and Dec), at least getting rid of the monarchy would be a start. Keeping them on just for tourism, and because the queen can gift out knighthoods to rich donors to the dominant parties, is no reason to abandon a say in how we live.

The second issue is about why some people are ‘rewarded’ for services and some are not. There are a great great many people that do selfless work no doubt – but we are all worthy. To single out some as more worthwhile than others is to mock the contribution of us all. Those that do good works – I guess there are some/many who do so selflessly without any conscious thought of gain, but I am sceptical as there is no such thing as a gift (pace Derrida) – surely do not do good works for the reward, for the honour. No, the honour system is sort of like a reality TV show, where honours are handed out to entertainers, where the path of fame glory and celebrity status is the marker of true worth. The Honours Show is a circus and should be treated in a fitting manner, and thus televised (on ITV4).

And thirdly, even if the system were not chucked out right now, there is no-one who really doubts that the honours system is through and through corrupt, it does not even do what it used to say it did. You can buy your honour if you donate enough – and no-one ever thinks the investigations into corruption are going to expose the dirty little secrets that lie underneath. And this is not just about money: Bill Burroughs already skewered it as a rich-list parasite thriving on a manufactured slave mentality:

‘I would love to see… in England “they must” get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. That bitch. Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. People say “The Queen isn’t important. She’s just a figurehead.” A Figurehead of subservience. A figurehead of kissing her ass. Worthless wench. She should be sweeping floors’ (Burroughs in 1968 in Lotringer 2001: 102).

OK, maybe you will think that’s a mite harsh on a grandma trapped in corgi land – but the infection has to be removed – get a flea collar, call the exterminator, douse the whole thing in bug powder and ship em out to a flat in Blackpool.

But finally and seriously, what really disturbs me most is that the State gives out awards to people in the midst of a global war. Most of us are ignoring this war and its impact on those bombed abroad, and those who suffer here (all our lives are distorted by this war – civil liberties restricted, attacks on muslims, insecurity and fear on the tube/airports/high street, detentions etc). The awards game is an obscene morale boosterism that flies in the face of complicity with death. To give out awards is a way of saying everything is fine. But everything is not fine. It is not ok. It is not OK at all.

Aki managed to get one quip in sideways: “do you think they might give a knighthood to John Lydon?”. God Saves.

[Pic: Lydon site and interview].

Travels in the war

One of the things I have been doing on and off for a while is writing about my Grandfather’s adventures in the second imperialist world war, and following him to places he visited – Malta, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon… Somehow the idea is that I’d do a travel diary during the ‘war on terror’ to match the text I made with him years ago about his WW2 war stories, which were themselves written out versions of what he used to tell when I was a homeless 14 year old camped out in his back shed…

Anyway, grabbing stuff to take home from my office for the xmas research break, I just found an old faded photo of grandfather and some of his mates in sailor uniform. Typically, holding bottles of beer. On the back in grandfather’s handwriting it says:

“This snap was taken in the mountains at Beruit in Jan 1943. I managed to save it. The lad behind me belongs to Sunderland and was the only other survivor”

Sunderland being sort of just across the way from Grandfather’s home town of South Shields, and where my Great Aunt Aggie was from – it was she who got me my first aussie rules football, for xmas circa 1973, saying she found it in Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra (a likely story).

In the pic Thomas Mouat Tate is the one on the front left. I did promise, a year ago, that I would come back to this stuff.

Galactica strikers

This pic shows the now empty set of Galactica where shooting for series four stopped at episode 4.13 because of the Hollywood writers strike. Ronald Moore’s site has some reports on what Galactica writers have (not) been doing for the strike. Pencils anyone? A ball game ticket with the Chief…? Recall his problematic negotiations with Admiral Adama in the strike episode in series three (3.15, discussed here), but before they get to earth, lets sort the workplaces out. Police in UK going out too – for all the wrong reasons, but in any case, Support the strikers.

A Battalion of Druggies

Apropos the picture in the previous post on Kendra of star fleet, imperial stormtrooper, colonial marine – whatever kind of junkie – I am shocked to hear that UK soldiers are succumbing to the evils of drug use as well. In particular cocaine is the battle-friendly powder-of-choice. We are told today by a UK military spokesperson on Radio Four that because this drug apparently allows soldiers to stay up all night, they like to take it at parties when they are on leave (the spokesperson does not make this an actual recommendation). The numbers we are talking about here are significant: this year the equivalent of an entire battalion (679) have been discharged because the testing regime for drugs was changed to the day after a soldier returns from leave. Isn’t that clever? A first instance of applied military intelligence. Although it seems we are not sure how these soldiers are getting all this cocaine, since clearly connections with Afghanistan would surely make other substances more convenient – recall that one of the ‘reasons’ we went to war against the (now resurgent) Taliban was to destroy the poppy trade (itself now resurgent).

So, are the battalions self-medicating because their return from the killing fields of Helmand turns out to be a bit tough – arriving back in the homeland/airstrip one where most folks barely know where the war is, let alone that it escalates. I suspect our insurgents in Sangin and Naway might find it in their interests to send a care package to any grunts that look like they are due a break.

Drugs and war is such a huge theme that suggesting any further reading would be an absurdly long task of documentation. I’d start with McCoy ‘The Politics of Heroin’, which the CIA loved so well, but I hope there is someone who could offer a more up to date biblio shortcut here. I’ve mentioned Taussig’s ‘My Cocaine Museum’ book often, but there is much else as well. We all know the tales of LSD experimentation – cool-aid acid test – and can cite lines from Vietnam movies or protest songs which celebrate military weed and more (thanks Country Joe and the Fish) but today’s drug war in the east (chant war on drugs, war on drugs – Pynchon) does not really get the ethnographers it deserves. Hunter Thompson should be deployed (rocket ready) but maybe Dave Boothroyd would do.

Research on New Media and Muslims in Europe

I was asked to provide a response – well paid – to a questionnaire on New Media and Europe’s Muslims by the Ergo Advisers research group out of New York. As the ‘vanguard of a new model of advisory services’, they provide their clients with ‘honest and actionable’ research (this action bit will make the question quoted later seem, well, interesting). Ergo clients include: Fortune 500 firms, hedge funds, corporations, private investors, and NGOs – who will use this research, and feel secure because ‘Ergo stands alone in its ability to deliver the precise knowledge needed to thrive in today’s dynamic information environment’.

Suspicious and paranoid, first of all I thought it was a scam thought up by malicious freak friends who were having some xmas-time fun with the ‘dynamic’ rhetoric of new modes of research – ‘vanguard’ even – but I am assured this stuff is for real.

So, feeling I had no reason not to get further annoyance for free, I had the questionnaire sent to me. Needless to say I have not quite found time to fill it in (as if). (I’ve also a heavy cold, hangover, and a pressing visit to the cinema).

I have just now written back politely:

Dear Marni

Can’t do it. With all good intentions, having read the survey questions, I was going to spend some time offering a critique of the underlying assumptions and how problematic I think this sort of ‘research’ is (its not research in any critical sense, its only going to be ‘useful’ to people who want to confirm stereotype and profile – as if European Muslims use new media any differently than anyone else…).

Questions like:

1. How successful have European governments been at counteracting the effects of organizing/mobilizing possibilities of new media tools for European Muslims (especially uses perceived as subversive or revolutionary)?

kind of give the game away. Unless this is a trick question, though its not the only one that reveals deeply prejudiced assumptions in this. I hope you don’t think critical scholars are going to participate. I certainly disagree with the framing, and wonder just what sort of results you will end up with.

For the record, I now am concerned as to why/who put you onto me as my research is not framed in terms even close to those set out here – but anyway, … Sorry I did not have more time to make a thorough critique – its the sort of project I like to skewer. You might consider some of the debates that have been going on here (the comments section, not the actual post).

Professor John Hutnyk. Researcher.

ps. needless to say I’ll forgo – ergo – the offered financial incentives/blood money.

BSG Razor

So this is Kendra Shaw the adorable space junkie in the Battlestar Pegasus kitchen having a bit of a snack. Its from the new BSG Razor telefilm (which I just got to see thanks to my dealer Terrence or Torrent or whatever he’s called). The film is full of surprises related to the Pegasus and its crew though I’m not telling. You find out Kendra is a powderfiend at the very start, so this is not spoiling – though there are lots of things to spoil, which means I guess I will refrain from commenting on it for a while. I did think the first half was better than the second – but perhaps that’s my preference. Laura K and I have been commissioned to write still more on the entire thing when the final series is aired in 2008 – we get a whole month to polish our chapter after the last episode, which goes to air in the US in August or so (starts April, so 20 weeks from then I guess). We will have more to say about Gaius and the Hybrids seem pretty interesting. Anyway, cute junkie trash as Kendra is, she is no Bill Burroughs, though I do wonder what she might have scribbled in her flight diary, doodling in her rack, ravings of note [stardate 23475.3] – yes, there might hang a tale. And just what kind of happy juice is she injecting into her neck? The Battlestar Wiki [all the spoilers you can eat] does not seem to know. Whatever it is, it certainly seems to ease the pain.

No Pit Closures

Reposted from 31 August 2005 because it still survives.

This old poster is on a notice board outside the old council houses across the road from my flat
- its survived 20 years or so I guess -
Support the Miners/No Pit Closures.
Note the ‘Miners’ part of the flyer has been erased, I guess this is poignant in a way. Reports of a reopened colliery in Yorkshire got some news airtime last year – not just a historic ‘museum’ type gesture but reported as such, the mine opening is significant in a way that all those films like Brassed Off just weren’t.And support the Hollywood writers strike – though some of them could do with some time down pit as well.

Australian Imperialism in Asia Pacific

Closet Cleaner – notes for a talk delivered at the European Social Forum 2004. Some small updates of minimal significance inserted to acknowledge that everything is totally changed now that Australia has a new PM. For sure[2007].

Australian Imperialism in Asia Pacific

Three or four major scenarios rather than a full listing of the national biography of a wannabee regional super power:

“In spite of being a small to medium power, Australian troops have been regularly deployed overseas. This has continued recently in support of U.S./Alliance activities, or in UN operations (in the 1990s, Australian troops were involved in UN operations in Cambodia, Cyprus, Egypt, Middle East, Rwanda and East Timor). In past, of course, Australia fought most of its wars overseas (the Boer War, World War I, most of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War). Now Australia is regularly involved with joint operations and training exercises with Southeast Asian neighbours, though often these are hosted in Australia (see Ball & Kerr 1996). Likewise, Australia is engaged in fairly wide ranging air patrols of sections the Indian and Pacific Oceans, using P-3C Orion aircraft, some still operating out of Butterworth airforce base in Malaysia (Ball & Kerr 1996).” R. James Ferguson 2000 here

- Malaysia – after fighting in the war, many captured at the fall of Saigon, and bloody battles along the Burmese trail, Australian military participation in the Emergency in Malaya post WW11 was an unglamourous anti communist pursuit. Malaya: The Undeclared War, directed by Robert Lemkin in 1998 tells the story of the origins of the Internal Security Act, the original strategic hamlets idea. Now operating globally through the Detentions facility near you. From the richest between the wars colony, Malaysia becomes latterly still the base for economic extraction coupled with Australian military presence – Butterworth (a staging post for Vietnam activity on the part of the last Iroquois helicopter squadron of the RAAF, and with the close alliance with the US “nuclear weapons were also deployed at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Butterworth, Malaysia”, and a training facility for deep jungle warfare techniques, joint operations and ‘manouvres’).
((On nukes: UK based academic Richard Moore, reported in Malaysiakini 03 Jan 2001 – see the report which is lodged here.
On Vietnam and the RAAF, ‘The third and last RAAF operational squadron to serve in Vietnam was No.2 Squadron. It returned to Australia in Jun 71, 13 years after having left Australia from Darwin en route to Butterworth, Malaysia’.Documentation, in somwhat unusual format, is conveniently here.;
The ‘manoeuvres’ comment is a personal observation from spending time drinking with Australian service personnel in the bars of the Penang tourist strip)).
There is much to be said about our imperial dealings with Malaysia, and lets recall its ‘recalcitrant’ previous PM Mahathir, who enjoyed a critical client relationship with Australia, but perhaps the detentions issue will do for a souvenir – today[written 2004], the so-called ‘Pacific’ solution of John Howard (inexplicably elected again in Oct 2004 [postscript – replaced by Rudd 2007, um, hooray]) has Australia’s ever more draconian immigration laws tightening the screws on all those ‘queue jumpers’ and maintaining detention issues on Manus, basically Australia is outsourcing its Detention facilities to client states.

- Something learnt in Malaysia and put to good effect in Vietnam – another major anti communist counter revolutionary action, this time all the way with LBJ, if anyone remembers the ideological support for these actions – not just M*A*S*H (about Korea, but not really, very popular in Australia) just recall the TV show The Sullivans, glorifying the pluck of those Sullivan boys in WW2 covert-ops behind enemy lines (Apocalypse Now but with OZ accents, ostensibly WW2, but also seemingly aimed at the Vietnam conflict. I keep mentioning films because there is also a media imperialism element to all this, not just owned by Murdoch with Star TV, but also ABC Asian Pacific, but also less easily placed documentarists like Denis O’Rourke who made The Good Woman of Bangkok and no doubt all manner of ‘I’ve been to Bali too’ home videos). Whatever the case, in Vietnam the apocalypse meant 3 million dead for the crime of opposing colonialism and wanting to have a say in the running of their own lives. Of course the US rewriting of Vietnamese War history forgets all the more effectively that the North Vietnamese won, and Rambo did not. See the Bradbury film footage of the Nth Viet tank breaking down the gates of the Saigon Imperial Palace, leading victory celebrations.

- Indonesia 1965, more anti-communist pogroms, see Brian Brown in The Year of Living Dangerously, Suharto first recognised by Australian Govt (See FN timetable at the end), and then in 1978 acceptance of E.Timor invasion by conservative Frazer Govt – continued accommodationism up to East Timor independence in 2000. We can now identify a massively increased NGOs role, especially post Bali bombing in 2002, plus a host of legal and security functions in the wake of the same. East Timor a growth area for initiatives of all sorts, from the military to the ACTU, the issue of oil bubbling away in the Timor Gap, out of reach of actual Timorese, but of significant international concern.

- In terms of Security issues… The Solomons is only the latest in a range of Police operations that stretch bag to the earliest and gloriest of Australia’s colonial adventures, the total colony that is PNG. From blackbirding (a mode of slavery where Kanaks were kidnapped for the sugar plantations of Queensland) through the early takeover in WW1 from the Germans (the Patrol Officer as heroic colonial figure, and the Kokoda track as the high point of Australian PNG cooperation where Australian soldiers were assisted along their stumble through the mud to battle the Japanese – see The Thin Red Line by Terrance Malik for a flavour of this stuff), and on to the mining industry, from the Leahy brothers adventures (First Contact, Connoly and Anderson) to Ok Tedi, the economic imperative of colonialism maintained by all manner of adjunct services such as – today – the Attorney General’s department and the Treasury having special offices dealing with Pacific and PNG affairs, and a host of NGO workers from the usual HIV industry to funded NGO bureaucrats, administrative staff and police training liaison officers.

- All of which is best highlighted by a review of the Bougainville War, with its ongoing ramifications right up to today. Those Iroquois helicopters from Vietnam and Malaysia turn up again, sold on to the PNGDF – but only as so-called de-militarised vehicles, the Gun mounts sawn off, in Bougainville. Pics of guns tied back on with rope would be handy here. PNG history a particularly happy affair for get-rich-quick mates from due South. There are a number of films relevant here, perhaps the Coconut Revolution best known, by Dom Roscoe, with funding from the body Shop, doing the routine of the intrepid reporter and condensing the peoples struggle into the routines of a few photogenic individuals and a new age awe at the ingenuity of guerrilla survivalism (discovery: the coconuts are useful). CRA prospecting 1960s – PNG independence 1975 sells out Bougainville as the CRA money spinner –Independence movement of women – prostitution for mineworkers – profits from the mine for CRA/RTZ continue even after the traditional land owners sabotage the polluting – retreat of RTZ, finally selling up in 2002 – Australian Govt declaration of war – blockage – phosphorous bombs – radio free bougainville – success of BRA – Sandline intervention backfires under PM Julius Chan – NZ negotiated cessation of fighting in 1998 – slow reconciliation process – police deployment by Australia this year – UN Kofi Anan saying last week (Oct 2004) that Bougainville was not ready for elections… [more on Bougainville here]

So what. Well perhaps I’d like to suggest these stories offer a kind of coming of age tale for a sub-imperial superpower. Our very own ‘highest stage’ [see pic]. The anti-communism of the immediate post-war years – against the threat of domino conversions, I wish, gives way to a service industry sponsored support for the never relinquished economic imperatives of imperialism, from the Malay plantation economy, through the Timor oil reserves to the police-training–immigration export economy of anti-terrorist peace keeping. Australia now administrates a fully fledged and articulated colonial sphere of influence. A regional sheriff in the comical guise of John Howard [replacement Rudd, 2007]. I believe it is time to start the Revolutionary Australian Government in Exile, here now, today, in this room. Founded upon … any takers? [Meetings of the Aust Govt in Exile continue as usual at South London Pacific, Kennington, 2007]

FN: Pre 1788: Visits of Buginese fishermen to north Australian coasts to collect sea cucumber or trepang.
1941-42: Australia and allies regard Netherlands East Indies as a vital part of its defence line.
1942: Japanese forces secure control of most of Indonesia
1942-1945: Netherlands East Indies administration located in Brisbane
1945: Australian troops as part of allied forces aid return of Dutch control of Netherlands East Indies
1947-1949: Australia one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Indonesia. Australia asked to represent Australia’s interests in the UN during negotiations with the Dutch (these policies were largely established under the leadership of Dr. H.V. Evatt, then Minister of External Affairs. At this time, Australian trade unions also embargoed Dutch cargoes and personnel.
1950: Australia co-sponsored Indonesia’s entry to the UN (also supported by India)
1950: First Australian ambassador presents credentials to President Sukarno
1963-1966: Australia supports Malaysia against Indonesia in ‘Konfrontasi’, with some Australian forces used in Sarawak (Borneo).
1975: Indonesia invades East Timor which becomes it 27th province in 1976. Five Australian journalists die during invasion.
1978: De facto recognition of Indonesian control of East Timor by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Andrew Peacock.
1979: Australia gives de jure (formal, legal) recognition of Indonesian control of East Timor
December 1989-February 1991 Timor Gap Treaty between Australia and Indonesia established (establishes boundary of sea resource usage, i.e. oil reserves that Portugal claims should belong to an independent East Timor. This has led to disputes before the International Court of Justice)
November 1991: Dili massacre in East Timor by Indonesian military forces. Australia issues mild protests.
1992: Trade between two countries reaches $A3 billion (Indonesia 10th larges export market for Australia)
1992-1994: Prime Minister Paul Keating visits Indonesia three times
September 1999: INTERFET military mission to East Timor to be led by Australia
… Through 2000-2001, though Australia has reduced its military involvement in East Timor, it is clear that the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) will need to extend its mandate into next year to stabilise the island. Furthermore, Australia will remain one of the main suppliers of aid for years to come as East Timor slowly builds a viable economy. From Ferguson see here

A Very Public Sociologist

A Very Public Sociologist

subtitled: Sociology Politics Sectariana Introversion

Seems like a very smart and very discerning blog, so go visit

Burning Books

In a commentary written not long before Derrida’s death, an elaboration of a keynote address he gave to a conference to inaugurate the Helene Cixous archive of the Bibliothéque Nationale, there is a definition of the library as a place ‘devoted to keeping the secret but insofar as they give it away’. It may be a twisting of the archival intention to read this quote without its context (Derrida is examining Cixous’ dreams of a certain Gregor) but the passage continues in a way that does suggest to me something of a primal scene for knowledge: ‘Giving a secret away may mean telling it, revealing it, publishing it, divulging it, as well as keeping it so deeply in the crypt of a memory that we forget it is there or even cease to understand and have access to it’ (Derrida 2003/2006:20). All through the book Derrida meditates on the library as a repository of secrets and certainties (certes as anagram), and more prosaically as a collection of boxes of papers, books, notes, sometimes objects, in a corridor, a room, an attic or a basement – and in the end suggests that there should be no Cixous archive without an ‘active research centre’ (83), which will be open to scholars throughout the world, and which would work, on this archive deposited in the BNF, wondering how it could be otherwise (87).

To think of an active library today might be a good way to take up the questions of ordering and protocols that Derrida had earlier set out in ‘Archive Fever’, but to do so would take a longer reading than I have time for (and anyway, see my chapter on that book in ‘Bad Marxism’).The thing is that the archive always already orders its secrets, as Derrida was at pains to point out. What I want to do is consider how it could be otherwise, and how in the French suburbs over the last week the criticism of books was generalized quite spectacularly as the burning of the library at Villiers Le Bel, ten miles from the centre of Paris: ‘burned books littered the floor’ according to one breathless report.

Of course the burning of books has its own charged and charred history, just as have the incidents (incendiary incitements) that led the youth of Paris to address the library in this critical mode. I am interested in the way scholars have addressed, or not addressed, these ‘street riots’. Derrida, about the same time as he was writing in praise of libraries, was also worrying about the youth that Sarkozy would later call racaille (rabble), but whom Derrida preferred to call voyous (Rogues). Here is the prescient, but somewhat problematic stereo-typing by JD:

‘The word voyou has an essential relation with the voie, the way, with the urban roadways [voire], the roadways of the city or the polis, and thus with the street [rue], the waywardness [dévoiement] of the voyou consisting in making ill use of the street, in corrupting the street or loitering in the streets, in “roaming the streets”, as we say in a strangely transitive formulation … Today the voyou sometimes roams the roadways [voies] and the highways [voiries] in a car [voiture], that is, when he or she is not stealing it or setting it on fire’ (Derrida Rogues 2005:65).

More on this inflammatory bon mot by Derrida and also on related street stuff here and here.

But – if you have now returned – what would be the way to navigate the convoluted questions of spontaneity and theory that arise here yet again (Lenin, Luxemburg). The urban uprising as a critique of books is an old tale, no doubt retold about Villiers le Bel after the night of November 25 by the theorists of polite politics who were looking elsewhere on the day. Police shot up in what seems a coherent tit-for-tat rapid response to the hit and run killing of Moushin (15) and Larami (16). Respontaneity is premeditated. There is already a theory of organization and action in play, far away from the book depository and its contemplative-juridical-tactical sermonizing.

In the UK a list might start with Notting Hill, Brixton, Toxteth, Manningham, Oldham, Bradford as one set of street level responses. Armed patrols, stop and search, custody deaths, profiling, detention as another – scaled up internationally on TV as war, rendition, kidnapping, death. In between, the routine bureaucratic arabesques of finance, health, education, workplace and housing scandals. At the high profile ends of hypocrisy we have the pomp and circumstance of Westminster, and the bad faith of humanitarian bombing campaigns. Pretension and war – both for democracy, gloss for the news.

So I am also collecting other tales of those who burn books. Send me your ashes. Nazi bonfires. Freud’s dream of burning books. Eco’s novel: ‘The Name of the Rose’, the Alexandria library, Somerset Maugham’s ‘Razors Edge’: great film starring Bill Murray whose quest for knowledge leads him down mines and up mountains, where he finally burns his texts to survive (see pic); the 1946 Tyrone Power version is good too. Have you ever burnt a book? Kafka destroying his notes, Bradbury’s ‘F’451′. And of course the Rushdie controversy – which starts in India but commentators keep on locating it in Bradford because that burning book image was so evocative…

Shall we keep now an archive of burnt books knowing that the protocols are already inscribed ‘in annals of fire’ (even in the fare future-past of Battlestar Galactica, the mentat Roslin cherishes her singed faux bible)?

Certainly the car yards are full of burned out hulks. Perhaps Mike Davis can be the librarian with his witty turns of phrase – see a commentary on his car bomb stories over at ‘Subtopia: A field guide to military urbanism‘.

More to come on this…


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