Archive for May, 2011

28
May
11

A Cracked.com Article on Poverty

I recently found an article on a humor website dealing with the issue of poverty (the article, not the website). As with all things from Cracked, it’s crude but undeniably brilliant.

Article linked here.

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14
May
11

Four 3:00 AM Messages to the Left

At the moment it’s three in the morning, and I have no idea why I’m still awake or even attempting to write. Still, this is what I have- four little messages to fellow members of the left.

1. Enough with the Koch brothers. Maybe it’s true that they’re a pair of egotistical tycoons funding the anti-labor movement and a shamelessly lobbying for corporate interest. However, the problem lies with the system, not the individuals. If the Koch brothers were to suddenly vanish from the face of the earth, there are plenty of other millionaires who’d be more than willing to take their place. The same goes for all the common bogeymen- Fox “News”, Wal-Mart, and so on. These things should be resisted, but lets not confuse the symptoms with the disease.

2. Give weed a rest, ok? Yes, marijuana should be legalized and yes, support for legalization grows every year. However, let’s be smart about where we’re investing our time and effort. After all, should hamburgers be legal? Absolutely, but the end goal of the revolution isn’t to stuff our faces. All I’m saying is, there’s rampant starvation, homelessness, and poverty all around us- these things have to be more important than getting high. Again, I’m all for legalization, but let’s keep our priorities straight here.

3. To Progressives, certain kinds of Democrats, and extreme liberals. I’m including you here because more likely than not you’d categorize yourselves as being, to some degree, members of the left. Let’s set the record straight. The differences between you and the Libertarians, Republicans, and conservatives are minor, at best. Other than a few stances, such as gay marriage, your policies are identical. And that’s fine, I haven’t brought up the subject to discuss your politics. It’s your attitude. The smug triumphalism, the savage tirades- it bugs me. Every once in a while you hear a Progressive or a Democrat make some deeply disparaging remark about how Republicans are attempting to destroy the United States, and every time this happens, an angel gets kidney stones. That’s how bad the hypocrisy is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for angry, hyperbolic rants- I’m a Communist. However, there is no where near enough space between you and the right-wing you so despise to criticize them without the fallout hitting you as well. In short, how ’bout you tone down the vitriol to an appropriate level and leave the frothy-mouthed diatribes to those who don’t share the same platform?

4. Agitation is never enough. It’s about as big of a blanket criticism as I can muster right now but it needs to be said. This goes for everyone- from the black-bloc anarchists smashing up storefronts at G20 protests, to social criticism graffiti artists, to self-righteous bloggers (including yours truly). Rebellion devoid of goals is, to be blunt, just a political temper tantrum. I thinks acts of rebellion are great- they help us maintain our sanity, they irritate our would-be superiors and managers, and they serve as demonstrations of dissent. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be deluded into imagining that our little tiffs- flipping off Porsche drivers, blasting Rage Against the Machine, chucking paint at the royal family- are acts of true revolution. Being a pain in the neck has it’s value, but it’s not the end goal.

10
May
11

Racism’s Back (Not That It Ever Went Away)

There are bad times ahead.

As the world economy further deteriorates and promises of middle-class prosperity wither, an angry, frustrated public is seeking desperately to find a scapegoat. Convenient targets who can take the blame, and let people prove to themselves that it’s not the system that’s at fault- that they can, if they work hard, be one day rich and happy and famous and secure. And so once again the poor, the powerless, and the different become the targets of a disappointed middle-class, more ready to believe that immigrants and ethnic, national, and religious minorities have conspired against than to accept that the system is somehow flawed.

Yes, it’s yet another post about racism, but it’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

Not to long ago, I found this clip on YouTube.

In short, it’s nearly five minutes of an angry man attacking “Chicano bastards” for “ruining neighborhoods” and “working for less” and a number of other bigoted charges. Right from the start he claims that “The invasion of illegal aliens has caused more misery for the American people than any other race.”. And who are the “American people”, he mentions? They are, as he puts it “The producers- the white people…”. At one point, he even states “We know they can be rounded up… How many Jews did the Nazis round up?”.

But his bigotry is by no means limited to Hispanics, there’s plenty of racism to go round.

Here’s a clip of him attacking the Muslim community in the US:

And another, disparaging the struggles of African-Americans:

Now you might argue “Sure, these videos are disgusting, but it’s all just one nut-case. The internet gives even the worst of us a platform.”. Granted, they’re all videos of the same bigot, but I chose to use them for a reason. At the end of each video, there’s a brief admonition to not provoke his followers as they are “legally carrying weapons”. Problem is, what’s “provoking”? This guy is provoked simply by the fact that some people aren’t white, American, or have “correct” religious views. In short, as crazy as this guy is, he and his followers are armed, and with an ideology based on racism, if that’s not a threat worth mentioning, I don’t know what is.

And Grady is by no means an isolated incident. There are plenty of militant racists out there, made all the more dangerous by the fact that they don’t actually believe themselves to be racists. Take for example, the case of a major German banker, who lost his job after making anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim remarks. Further, rampant Islamophobia has become common in Europe, with many Europeans questioning the ability (and indeed, legitimacy) of Muslim immigrants integrating into various nations. In fact, prejudice against Muslims has become so open, that France has actually banned veils covering the face, a form of modesty among some Muslim women. Other European nations plan similar laws. And it’s not just Muslims feeling the brunt of racism in Europe, Roma Gypsies have been repeatedly expelled from France, and in other countries, the Roma face violent persecution. This is, in sum total, government sanctioned xenophobia.

And what can we do about it?

On the whole, people have tried espousing a philosophy of extending compassion and building understand, and to extent, it works. Racism is rooted, after all, in man’s survival instinct- we’re terrified of the strange because what we don’t know might hurt us. When racism stems simply from ignorance of the group being discriminated against, breaking down barriers and building mutual knowledge is the principal weapon against prejudice. But what about racism in a modern age, when simple ignorance is no longer an excuse?

I grew up in Syria, a country that, after spending a few centuries being stomped on by imperialist boots, was unceremoniously dragged into the modern era. Even now, there are parts of the country where farmers and Bedouin are living lives identical to those their ancestors lived thousands of years ago. These people, many of whom are illiterate, who’ve had no education, who’ve been exposed to no news of the outside world except through what state-controlled media decides, who’ve never seen Ijanib (“foreigners”) before, still treated me and my family with hospitality, generosity, and warmth. When my family moved to Syria in the early 90s, right after the first Intifada had taken place, our landlords were Palestinians. They, of all people, had a right to be hostile to us. What did they do instead? They babysat me and my little sister. They had my family down for visits.

Now what racism in the West? In Europe and America, there is almost unlimited access to news, media, books, and information about other cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities. At any point in his or her day, a racist can go on-line, or go to a library, or even just walk down the street and find information about someone different, or better yet, someone different. At any time, a person can open his or her eyes and realize the self-evident equality of all human beings.

But they don’t. Despite all opportunity, racists choose to be racist.

And I’m tired of it.

At what point does a person stop being responsible for the ignorance- the willful ignorance– of another? With every book, article, essay, declaration, and manifesto written about human equality, with every documentary, movie, and play, with every website, advocacy group, and movement- if the sum of the equality movement and all logic and reason cannot convince them, what can we do?

Only this: In the old racist- he or she may be ignored. Hopefully, whatever poison’s still pent up in them will die with them. In the case of the ignorant, we have to reach out a hand- they certainly aren’t going to. But in the case of the institutional and militant racists, the line has been drawn. They choose to ignore every calm and collected call for understanding, and nothing will convince them otherwise. For these people, ready to persecute and kill in the name of bigotry, there can be no response but that of violence. There is only one way to deal with Fascists, and it is to introduce their heads to the pavement.

02
May
11

The Death of Bin Laden: And Nothing Changed…

President Obama has just confirmed the killing of Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden.

Osama Bin Laden is dead and nothing has changed.

Don’t get me wrong, no matter what your social or political perspective is, the events that have transpired in the past week mark an iota of justice for those dead, both American and otherwise. However, let us not delude ourselves into imagining that the world tomorrow is going to any different than it was yesterday or the day before.

I watched the news at a friend’s house- one of her roommates went to bed before the speech, commenting “I know I’ll be alive tomorrow”.

That’s simply not something any of us can say.

With emotions running free on all fronts, we might forget that Bin Laden was as much the leader of Al-Qaeda and affiliated networks as Queen Elizabeth is the ruler of England. His death no more defeats Al-Qaeda and the Taliban than the death of the queen would obliterate the UK. The actual leaders of Al-Qaeda are as alive as ever, these recent events constitute, at most, an ideological defeat.

So is it over now? Will the Orwellian policies in the US- such as the Patriot Act or the invasive TSA scanning procedures- be repealed? Will US and coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere? Has the situation anywhere in the world been in the least altered by the death of Bin Laden?

The answer to everything is a resounding “No”.

Even in his announcement, Obama has announced the continuation of the wars and policies in place since September 11th. Again, nothing absolutely nothing has changed.

So we have to ask the question- “when?“. “When will we be able to end the wars, repeal the invasive policies? When will the sacrifices we have all made pay off? When is it going to be over?“.

And yet, as I’m writing this, we all already know the answer. It’s not going to be over. The sacrifices of privacy and personal liberty these things, once given up, are gone for good. The increase in government power, militarism, bureaucracy cannot be scaled back. again the world of yesterday is the world of tomorrow. There is no victory.

When was the American public’s chance to defeat it’s attackers? It was one September 12th. It was when the public was faced with the option between security and liberty.