Category Archives: charity

Care – a Christmas Carol

gates

The inadequacy of charitable care as an international cure is evidenced despite the widespread propagation of philanthropic intervention. Bill Gates dedicates millions towards eradication of less glamorous diseases, and receives favourable blanket coverage across BBC World and other outlets. All manner of charitable organisations leech goodwill from the small-scale individual touristic concern through to huge Christian institutions with administrative apparatus and sans frontiers bureaucracy. Newspapers give support to campaigns to outlaw genital mutilation or to screen for trachoma, but a general inability to scale-up to the required distribution of universal well-being is structurally implied in philanthropic effort, even among those who would reject the injustice of global inequality. All very well-meaning and caring for sure, but fundamentally inadequate as a ‘cure’, dealing in a terminology of medical symptom and unable to confront the epidemiology of capitalism itself.

Here is a grotesque let them eat cake image – it shows the three billionaire amigos: Bill Gates, Akilo Dangote, Mohammed Ibrahim, and 2 women. The women are not named in the first five paras of the Forbes article I could read before the paywall closed on me. Erm, paywall? These are the richest guys in the world, and we all know no-one earns a billion dollars – do the math – you need to get $4578 per hour working ten hours a day every day for 60 years to ‘earn’ a billion. Of course, if you had $100 billion to invest in shares that rose 1% you would earn a billion in a day. Its nabbing that first $100 billion that is the trick. Anyway, instead of stealing all that money, there could be a global health service run by Governments rather than the discount Gates love-in reported here. Gates claims he pays more tax than anyone, at 10 billion on 106 billion, that is still a lower rate than I pay on my not even $1500 a month, and even as he says he’s given away $35 billion in charity, he is still ‘worth’ $106 billion (after tax? = good accountants). How can anyone be worth that, when clearly – do the math – they are still stealing the money, and asking you to smile at how generous their gifts are. Take a hike Bill. I mean, instead of thanking Gates for his self-aggrandising alibi donations in favour of a spot of science research, he could without fanfare pay proper taxes and that science x 10 could be funded by Governments without any of us having to see these cake-cutting bloated egoist philanthropists that even Charles Dickens would have mocked at Christmas.

The Rumour of Calcutta – digital book

rumour-cover122 years ago my first book was typeset and laid out in the days before electronics – well, an electric typesetting machine was plugged into a wall, but no digital file was produced. Nevertheless, I had crossed out the digital rights clause in my contract with Zed so I own this. At last some kind anonymous soul has bootlegged it and set digital copy free on the nets, though its a large scanned file and the bibliography was left off (I’ve made a rough scan of the biblio but that too is a large file). Nevertheless, notwithstanding, and such like phrasings, the book is still one of which I am proud, if nothing else for trialling a way of citing tourist backpacker-informants, for its stuff on photography and maps and for the reviews it got (and indeed keeps getting discussed, for example on films – see diekmann2012) and especially for its critique of charity and what charity is for. In the context of do-gooder well-meaning hypocrisy, the effort of charity workers serves wider interests as well as their own, and only marginally any individuals they help – who would be better helped in better funded state-run facilities if the funds extracted through business-as-usual colonialism were, you know, made as reparations for the several hundred years of colonial plunder. Ah well, the critique stands up, the charity industry sadly thrives, second only perhaps to weapons in terms of so-called development, writing books does not yet always change the world as much as you’d like (and no, I did not ever think a book would single-handedly stop Mother Theresa, but…).

I would welcome new readers.

Download The Rumour of Calcutta here:  [John_Hutnyk]_The_rumour_of_Calcutta__tourism,_ch

Biblio here. Rumour biblio

And this retrieved by Toby:

Zurker the Zucker(berg) punch…

Still a lot to be worked out but OK, why not gamble on FB not even being here in 8 years (as reported in the SMH today) and join this other (maybe nicer) pyramid scheme social networking site. I’m happy enough to say my invite is from Stewart Home – so get in early enough and it might not fall over on you – link page here: http://www.zurker.co.uk/i-226925-yvgyvoykwn

Poppies

Poppies seem to spring up on people’s lapels earlier each year, and on younger lapels than ever before. Walking through London Bridge tube station last night I saw them on teenagers, and then later that evening caught a few minutes of an inane interview of Girls Aloud (a pop band apparently) on the BBC and several of them were sporting the little red blossom.

Of course I know all the multiple and multiplying associations that could unfold from the petals of this little bit or remembrance (it is a sort of trinket, the issues are certainly trinketized). Poppy-war, Heroin & war, Fashion, Charity, Symbolism, Hypocrisy. Out of respect for the dead, we should start with the carnage adn waste of so many lives in Çanakkale Savaşları, aka Gallipoli, where thousands of soldiers were sent to the fields of eternal sleep – not the pretty sleep of the Dorothy in a field on the way to Oz kind, but a more wicked wizardry of military strategy in a stupid imperial war, run by kings and generals, endured by regulars and innocents on both sides.

Dorothy’s dream inside a tornado is relevant today. She is about to be released again in a remake, but for pc reasons the remake will not include the munchkins. My version of Dorothy re-imagined would immediately transport us not to Oz or Gallipoli, but to the killing fields of Afghanistan. Under the tarpaulin, huddled in the dust, afraid and under-equipped, young recruits on their third tour of duty, a tin man, a scardy-cat lion, a fellow made of straw – Toto, come back Toto… somewhere over the rainbow… And it has been a long long nightmare for the Afghan people – the humanitarian aid packages are now forgotten, the humanitarian bombing goes on (with an anthropologist helping write ‘counter-insurgency guidelines’ and advising on the battle to win/destroy hearts and minds). That the battle is brought to the imperialists by the resurgent Talaban is not reason to still sustain a long duration battle plan. Among the reasons given by Bliar for attacking Afghanistan in the first place was to eradicate heroin poppy production. That this has failed spectacularly, and his soothing words about restoring the education of women, and the bollocks about the capture of Sheik Osama – the other two objectives – these reamin, how shall we say, ‘incomplete’. This is surely not just circumstantial evidence in a far longer war crimes charge sheet. Whatever happened to the three strikes and you’re out metaphor? And to think Bliar can intervene in the Middle East to good effect – they are havin’ a laugh.

I guess we mostly remember poppy not as echo of the static death embrace of armies in Flanders, but through versionings of death as heroism in the cinema. All Quiet on the The Western Front (1930), Paths of Glory (1957, Kubrick dir. with Kirk Douglas) the trenches and beaches of the Dardanelles – near the site of Troy, and this comes as metaphor because of films that support the nation – the Australian Film Commission funds a jingoism which thrives on cinematic recollection (blame Gallipoli 1981, Peter Weir, dir. with Mel Gibson), and though we like to mock the stiff upper lisp inanity if the military that sent so many troops to pointless charge of the light brigade type death, there is also much to mock in some of the ANZAC tradition marches. With style and humour, Fiona Nicoll has an excellent book that relates Returned Service League, RSL, marches and the Aussie ideal of ‘mateship’ to the carnivalesque of Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney – From Diggers to Drag Queens, Pluto Press. But even that old routine – the One Day of the Year – has worn a bit thin – as we watch our rugby players before the recent world cup, just like the cricket team before them, draw (insufficient) sporting inspiration from a visit to the trenches. Sport is also heck, buy a poppy for Team Oz.

World War 1 is long gone, but that lost generation fodder for the insane destructive wars of Capital must be revived, renovated and renewed over and over. The remembrance date (Nov 11 – but also 25 April for ANZACS) is rehearsed for new wars, and we must acknowledge the charge that brings out a special strain of charity: poppy pins for veterans’ aid collection, emotive posters (on the tube again, posters of an old guy on a park bench with his missing ‘mate’ outlined in floating red flowers), and the Queen and other piggy pollies waddling over to the Cenotaph to lay wreaths for the fallen. Live on television, this comes with almost no debate. In England debate would be unseemly – all the while as more and more are slaughtered in the global war that these very same crocs (Labour Party, ruling class, military brass) perpetrate. Tears for the dead they can spare. Yet their hypocrisy wears thin these days, and at even the most modest or small c conservative levels there are questions being asked about troop welfare, troop support, and adequate compensation for their own maimed fodder. But a debate that would pin responsibility on any decision maker is not likely. Only remembrance – a tamed and contained memory, a blank memorial façade, an anaesthetized festival of hypocrisy and cynicism.

‘We support the troops when they turn on their officers’ was a slogan seen on a photo I posted here recently, but this has not grabbed hold of anyone by the scruff of the coat, even as the old fashioned war veterans associations and the like are ‘up in arms’ about establishment contempt for their dead and wounded. Of course we have not attended, and can barely conceive of a way to attend, to the civilian casualties, the people of Afghanistan, of Iraq, and all those subject to the everyday terror of our contemporary total war capitalism on the streets here (Charles de Menezes) or on the streets there (how many killed today?). Buy a poppy because we are the numb, we are living war, we wear it as fashion, Girls Aloud teach it to their teen fan base. Patriots all Dorothy. Worse than the drug. Tin-Zombies. Lions of Halloween. Straw-man Fiends.

Thought Crime – its a joy!

At dinner the other day, KK told the story of his recent meeting with a ‘community copper’ on a bicycle who accosted him walking along the street. KK was wearing a beard and a back-pack, and the accusation was “you’e looking a bit serious, lad”. He was in fact thinking of buying fireworks, it being Diwali in England, so perhaps… but no, I think it indicates that everyday life is so much worse than the days when the standard bobby rap of “ere ere ere wots all this then?” would just make us laugh. Times have changed.


And then a former student, now a journalist in Russia, wrote to ask a few questions:

I want to know what you think it’s like working as a lecturer, in terms of motivation, work load, environment and general job satisfaction? Also, I was wondering if you thought there were any qualities that are desirable for people who want to pursue an academic vocation?…

I guess part of me feels a lot of academic research tends to be a bit removed from what’s actually going on now and this may sound a little stupid, but I’m not really sure why or for whom it’s done. But at the same time I’m constantly infuriated at the lack of time for reflexivity in my current job where everything has to be new and glossy so you often seem to churn out the same old bullshit… it would be great if you could give me some idea about what your job’s like and maybe some reasons why people do research in Cultural Studies?

Z, you are asking absolutely the right questions but its almost impossible to reply in anything less than 10,000 words.

I like Gayatri Spivak‘s take on what she does – she sees her teaching as an effort of working to try and change minds – or maybe better said, as Spivak also does (most recently in Naked Punch), as persistent teaching to try to rearrange desires. The first desire that needs rearranging from where I am is the special privilege well-meaning westerners have in desiring to ‘help’ people by intervening in their lives in ways that perhaps do not help so much at all – everyone from Madonna with child to backpackers doing charity work in Calcutta seems to be on a mission… and sometimes (too often) this includes bombing them to ‘help’ them onto the path of democracy. Well that’s a sure fire good example to convince people of the wisdom of our ways…

Does cultural studies help with that? – usually not. But trying to learn to think differently, to think, to think critically, about everything, is the basis of my approach to what I do as well. Or at least as often as I get a chance – in between bullshit production, (blogging; the publication machine) and routinised desk work. Teaching a Marx course that does not look for ‘the answer’ in Marx is a key part of my effort, and I am motivated by, and do enjoy, doing that. Old Beardo says there must be a ruthless critique of everything. This would have to include a critique of teaching too. I mean, how many minds are really changed? There are a lot of people in my class, they seem very enthused, we proceed apace. Yet the Democrats are the alternative to the Republicans in the US and the Tories here in the UK are back on the Immigration warpath. Chavez is only in Venezuela.

And then there is the whole thing about how the university system is a major impediment to any sort of critical intelligence, even as it is perhaps its last refuge. More and more mad administration forms; repetitions of bureaucratic procedure that make triplicate look like the good old days; vocationalisation that turns everything into a line on a CV, a phrase in a job reference, or a network meeting (rather than an exchange of ideas). The privatisation of education is well well well underway. Critical thinking is an endangered species, hidden amidst the overgrowth of accountancy. There is plenty I would like to do, and I write often along those lines in mad experiments which – probably for the better – never seem to work out (see here). But the effort is not unrewarding. I just wish there was some chance to say, sometimes, that things will get better than this. Every now and then it does seems possible – running down the street with a red flag at the head of a 2,000 strong demonstration; celebrating with friends the interventions and minor victories against the horror of mugwump corporate culture (see DisOrient X) … in between there are inspirational talks like that of Michael Taussig’s one on Colour and Terror here last tuesday.

Trouble is that there is never enough time, even to answer let alone ask all the questions (or verse vicer), and I do have to get to the pub, and to get ready for a visit to Sweden to give a talk on the great new Fun^da^mental video, which you can see here.

All good, be well. J.

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