• Books: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Endless War: Hidden Functions of the "war on terror" by David Keen, Capital Vol. 1, Tin Drum by Günter Grass, What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad, Spies, Soldiers and Statesmen by Hazem Kandil, La Condition Humaine by André Malraux, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Richness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould, Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Noli me Tangere by José Rizal, Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, ذهنية التحريم لصادق جلال العظم, Karl Marx by Francis Wheen, وليمة لأعشاب البحر لحيدر حيدر, Candide by Voltaire, النزعات المادية في الفلسفة العربية الإسلامية لحسين مروة, Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich ..
  • Films: Alexanderplatz by Rainer Fassbinder, Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, films by P. P. Passolini, Persepolis, Midnight Express, 1984, Papillion, Gangs of New York, Sophie Scholl, Life of Brian, Ivan the Terrble, Battleship Potemkine ...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Depth and substance vs shallowness


How did the West usurp the rest?

Abstract: Traditional explanations of the rise of the Westhave located the sources of Western supremacy in structural or long-term developmental factors internal to Europe. By contrast, revisionist accounts have emphasized the con- junctural and contingent aspects of Europes ascendancy, while highlighting intersocietal conditions that shaped this trajectory to global dominance. While sharing the revisionist focus on the non-Western sources of European develop- ment, we challenge their conjunctural explanation, which denies differences between Westand Eastand within Europe. We do so by deploying the idea of uneven and combined development (UCD), which redresses the short- comings found on both sides of the debate: the traditional Eurocentric focus on the structural and immanent characteristics of European development and the revisionistsemphasis on contingency and the homogeneity of Eurasian societies. UCD resolves these problems by integrating structural and contingent factors into a unified explanation: unevenness makes sense of the sociological differences that revisionists miss, while combination captures the aleatory processes of inter- active and multilinear development overlooked by Eurocentric approaches. From this perspective, the article examines the sociologically generative interactions between European and Asian societiesdevelopment over the longue durée and traces how the breakdown of feudalism and the rise of capitalism in Europe were fundamentally rooted in and conditioned by extra-European structures and agents. This then sets up our conjunctural analysis of a central yet underappreciated factor explaining Europe rise to global dominance: the disinte- gration of the Mughal Empire and Britains colonization of India. 

How did the West usurp the rest?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The suicide attacker, as Richard Boothby has written, short-circuits this relationship between master and slave. The uneven dialectic is based on the formula: your freedom or your life. But it is uneven because, if you choose the former, you can't have either. In a suicide attack, the attacker abruptly proves willing to give up her life to end the stand-off; turning her corporeality, her body, into a weapon. Jacqueline Rose made the point, writing about suicide attackers some years ago, that every such attack is "an act of passionate identification -- you take your enemy with you". Which could be interpreted as meaning, you take a bit of their whiteness, their being, with you. You claim a share of being, seemingly always precarious, always endangered, through death.

Lone wolf suicide attackers may not kill many people compared to the apparatuses of military full-spectrum dominance, or militarised policing. But they evoke a particular horror because they upend the (racialised) political and strategic calculations through which this assymetrical stand-off was assumed to be manageable. It is the precise opposite of 'risk-transfer war', in which the eroticised embodiment of death and killing is eliminated through drone abstractions, and policed out of national imaginaries both by borders and security apparatuses and by the working of ideology. Facebook users were grimly amused, during the fall-out from the Westminster attack, to notice people from far afield marking themselves as 'safe'. Only a very small number of people in this world are actually entirely safe; we are all continually living the crisis, to a greater or lesser extent, a precarious situation in which our lives can be blown apart by recession, austerity, violent crime, family breakdown, or a major social conflict. Only when people start being murdered is it possible to think of oneself as 'safe'. The appearance of the dead, the unpredictable irruption of a form of violence that belongs elsewhere -- what ITN called "Baghdad-style violence" in the wake of the Woolwich attack -- reminds us forcefully of the ideology according to which we are indeed safe."

Monday, March 27, 2017

"The essay seems to vacillate between the urge to expose the hypocrisy or mendacity of power in its use of humanitarianism as char- ter for invasion and domination, a critique that might still leave a (liberal) concept of the human intact, and a drive to expose a deeper, constitutive, and unredeemable involvement of the very concept of the human (and in particular, the suffering human) in the violence of geopolitical power. Repeatedly, though not consistently, Asad’s essay reaches for this sense of a deeper crisis of the modern concept of the human and its wider constellation rather than its (cynical, partial, and hypocritical) manipulation by power. But whether or not he subscribes to any version of the posthuman paradigm currently in vogue remains utterly unclear...

Throughout the essay, as in much of Asad’s writing, one gets the sense that there are only these two sociocultural realities (and modes of thinking) in the world: the liberal-secular-modern (which is imperialist in its worldly career) and those “traditional” forms that have somehow escaped its hold. [For insrance, a] mode of analysis of Afghan society and culture that is as scrupulous in its critique of the logics of imperial violence as in its approach to institutionalized (and traditionalized) forms of violence against women in Afghan society seems inconceivable in these terms"

 — Aamir Mufti on Talal Asad's essay Reflections on Law, Violence, and Humanitarianism (2015)


 A few interesting things in this narrative,
 but why does it avoid to mention the global capitalist system as the context?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This is about one among the hundreds of thousands of victims of that "secular leader, the lesser evil" who has not been included in the Western regime change, and supported by a few liberals and leftists worldwide.
"[Y]ou don’t bring about major political change simply by changing people’s minds. It’s their interests that need to be assailed, not their opinions.

"Universities can’t get critical leverage in a situation of which they have become an integrated part, any more than a Picasso hanging in the lobby of the Chemical Bank can make an implicit comment on finance capitalism. By and large, academic institutions have shifted from being the accusers of corporate capitalism to being its accomplices. They are intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries." — Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton was forced to retire from his post as John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at Manchester University in July 2008

Death of the intellectual

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Yet in 2015, only eighty-one thousand workers participated in strikes, and only 170,000 days were lost to labor action. These figures represent the fewest strikers and the second-smallest loss to productivity since records began in 1893. 

“The legal framework works against workers,” argues Chris, an IWW organizer. “It’s tailored toward management, but also toward compromise. If you reject that framework, then you can operate in a way that is actually really effective.”


The rise of the unorganizable

Friday, March 24, 2017

"To be sure, Miéville, like everyone else, concedes that it all ended in tears because, given the failure of revolution elsewhere and the prematurity of Russia’s revolution, the historical outcome was ‘Stalinism: a police state of paranoia, cruelty, murder and kitsch’. But that hasn’t made him give up on revolutions, even if his hopes are expressed in extremely qualified form. The world’s first socialist revolution deserves celebration, he writes, because ‘things changed once, and they might do so again’ (how’s that for a really minimal claim?). ‘Liberty’s dim light’ shone briefly, even if ‘what might have been a sunrise [turned out to be] a sunset.’ But it could have been otherwise with the Russian Revolution, and ‘if its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them."

The Russian Revolution: What's Left?
More on precise air strikes and the higher moral objective to save civilisation. 

Some collateral damage is worth it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"China has already overtaken in per capita GDP or in PPP all of the world's other largest developing economies - India, Indonesia and Brazil. By 2020 China's per capita GDP will be higher than several Eastern European countries.
As China has 19 percent of the world's population, quite literally never in human history has anything approaching such a large proportion of the world's population had its conditions of life improved so rapidly. That will be the astonishing measure of China's success in achieving "moderate prosperity" - it is, without comparison, literally the greatest economic achievement in human history."
What China achieving 'moderate prosperity' means
London

I have received an email saying that the attack, which took place yesterday, was "an attack on the values of democracy and openess". 
Theresa May, the PM, has said that "the attacker was inspired by the Islamic faith".

The intellectual disability (or the fundamentalist discourse) of some people are just disgusting.

Has the PM said something else? Yes, she spoke about "the oldest democracy", "freedom", "forces of evil", and some other things of that nature. The ones we heard after the previous attacks.

Update: the Prime Minister also said that "we saw the worst of humanity." She is not pretending to be ignorant; she is just a representative of an imperialist and chauvinistic regime for which the rhetoric of "humanity" is a PR for public comsumption.
More than 200 people just drowned in the Miditerranean

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What we found is a phenomenon that explains, with remarkable clarity, the rise of Donald Trump — but that is also much larger than him, shedding new light on some of the biggest political stories of the past decade. Trump, it turns out, is just the symptom. The rise of American authoritarianism is transforming the Republican Party and the dynamics of national politics, with profound consequences likely to extend well beyond this election.

The rise of American authoritarianism
Minor news items do not appear on the BBC fronpage

Or

When the objective is part of a supreme civilisational mission, collateral damage is worth it. Mistakes happen! Let's remember that we have to terrorize the terrorists there so that they don't kill us in the West.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

To foreign ministries in the global north, Sisi is a familiar face in an ever-more unfamiliar region – and one that they’re ready to do business with. In the past two years Egypt has signed major new arms deals with both the US and France. Donald Trump has labelled his Egyptian counterpart ‘a fantastic guy’. In late 2015, David Cameron rolled out the red carpet for Sisi at Downing Street; Theresa May has promised ‘a new chapter in bilateral relations’ between the UK and Egypt and as I speak Boris Johnson is in Cairo, drumming up trade deals. Italy did, thanks to popular pressure on the ground, temporarily withdraw its ambassador to Egypt in protest at Giulio’s murder. But between 2011 and 2013 alone, Italy sold Egypt more than half a billion euros worth of guns and bullets. The police trucks that many of the journalists and political prisoners I mentioned earlier found themselves locked up in after being dragged from their homes in the night are manufactured by the Italian company Iveco. Giulio’s disappearance occurred as an Italian government business delegation toured Cairo; this very month, the Italian energy giant Eni has announced $10 billion worth of investment in Egypt over the next five years. In 2015 I watched then Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi address Sisi from the stage at a major economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh and declare, to thunderous applause, “Your war is our war, and your stability is our stability.” Who cares about Giulio?

Those so-called NGOs, "human rights" activitists, etc. shouldn't they pack and go back to where they come from to fight against the regimes in their countries and leave the Egyptians fight their own war against the dictatorship. On, no, but the Egyptians are unfit. We, the new missionaries, need to show them the way.
"All you need to gain access to socialism for white people is a good corporate or government job. That fact helps explain how this welfare system took shape sixty years ago, why it was originally (and still overwhelmingly) white, and why white Rust Belt voters showed far more enthusiasm for Donald Trump than for Bernie Sanders. White voters are not interested in democratic socialism. They want to restore their access to a more generous and dignified program of white socialism."

Interesting, but equally interesting is the writer's concept of "socialism".

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A new book

Spain's Moriscos
India

Modi rules, Harvard doesn't


Aristotle: “Even if they have no share in office, the poor, provided only that they are not outraged or deprived of their property, will be quiet enough.” … “prevent the lower from getting more; they must be kept down, but not ill-treated. … Friendship [among members of the ruling class] we believe to be the greatest good of states and the preservative of them against revolutions.”

Jlowry: "We should avoid designating India or any other capitalist state as a democracy . They are oligarchies i.e. states where the rich rule as opposed to democracies where the poor or unpropertied rule. As Aristotle notes in his ”Politics” it is quite inadequate to define democracies as the rule of the majority and oligarchy as the rule of the few; it is rather that the poor are many and the rich few, which is why he notes that the mark of a democracy is selection by lot, that of an oligarchy election by ballot , which the rich will usually win.

Wal Buchenberg: "India is as good a democracy as the Netherlands or the USA. “Democracy” does not mean that “the majority of people” prevails. (Representative) democracy means only that the government is elected. Nowhere in the world has a democratic government really been elected by the majority of people. Donald Trump did not even have the majority of the votes cast – let alone the majority of the electorate. Modi is not chosen by the majority of the Indians. This is how democracy works."

Jlowry: "There is no such thing as ‘representative democracy’; democracy is either direct democracy or it is oligarchy. This can be verified empirically: look at the mother of all parliaments, Westminster. Historically it has overwhelmingly consisted of members who attended Oxford, Cambridge or private schools. Where are the members who 
were plumbers, drivers or hairdressers? Between 1900 and 
1960 1/3 of the ministers of the crown had attended a single school, Eton. Anything more unrepresentative would be hard to find!"

Aristotle, an anti-democrat, outlines the features that constitute a democracy."

Source: Michael Roberts' blog

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Ideas and words are often products of their time. That is certainly true of heterosexuality, which was borne out of a time when American life was becoming more regularised. As Blank argues, the invention of heterosexuality corresponds with the rise of the middle class." (BBC online)

The invention of 'heterosexuality'

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Do not believe these croakers but give the lie to their dismal croaking by showing by our actions that the vigour and vitality of our race is unimpaired and that our determination is to uphold the Empire that we have inherited from our fathers as Englishment". In his view, the British would "continue to pursue that course marked out for us by an all-wise hand and carry out mission of bearing peace, civilisation and good government to the uttermost ends of the earth". 

That man on the five-pounds note. Bath, England, Speech of 26 July 1897

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Europe

Competition to outperform the other is good.
To achieve a high enough rate of profit is good.
To have weak or obsolete unions is good.
To have a reserve army so the workers accept their conditions is good.
If regulations undermine profit, they are not good.

 Drivers living in trucks for months

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Assange is a man of what I once called the Chomskyan left and what modern critics call the regressive left. He is against the west, often for good reasons. Like so many of his kind, however, he will then ally with any force, however reactionary, which opposes the west as well." Nick Cohen, the Guardian

Yes, I agree that allying oneself with Farage and Trump makes you reactionary. I also conclude from the above that anyone who opposes "the west" is reactionary. For Cohen assumes that "the west" is progressive. I think not. 


I think that Cohen is a defender of "the west", which means he allies himself with a history of state imperialism' crimes of western regimes: wars, invasions, plunder of public wealth, huge inequality, tacit backing of theocracies and dictatorships, enslavement through debt, harbouring of oligarchs, exploitation, instituional racism (especially in the US) ...  What is Cohen's "west" if not that global capitalist system of domination? Does that make Cohen a progressive leftist?
"What then, do human rights do in a context in which both state and subject are being transformed by neoliberal governmental ratio- nalities? The problem with human rights today is not so much that they conceal their own reliance on national rights, I suggest, but that they have become a discourse that is used to justify both state violence and forms of conversion, including economic conversion, on a global scale."

Human rights and the collateral damage of neoliberalism

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Michael Roberts:

Interesting insights into the nature and context of Trumpism by Paul Mason.
Not sure about this policy prescription though! 
"Make a strategic alliance with the remnants of neoliberalism to defend the rule of law, democracy and tolerance, similar to the Popular Front project sponsored by the Comintern in the 1930s."
That did not do so well.
England

"Some 95% of the 1,054 heads, deputies and senior teachers responding to the survey said they had cut back on support services - including equipment and materials, as well as mental health and special needs support.
More than eight out of 10 said class sizes had increased - a claim strongly refuted by the Department for Education.
And more than two-thirds said they had cut back on activities like clubs and trips." (bbc online)
The refugees fault? Too many foreigners breeding like rabbits?
They wish they could privatise all schools like what they have been doing to the National Health Service. Where is Richard Branson to "fund" education? Higher education is already elitist, why not making all education elitist, i.e. only for those who can afford it? 

These capitalists cannot afford even to be Keynesians.
They have the money for wars and bombs. They tell us our aid and charities, and missionaries, are helping poor people in Africa and elsewhere building schools.

Let's not forget that the cuts in budgets and funding are part of austerity, which means ordinary people and public services have been paying for the plunder by the banks (in collusion with the elected regime), i.e. paying those who triggered the crisis in the first place and punishing the rest. 

It is a beautiful system: you do not stop electing criminals because there is no alternative and you believe in "democracy" (capitalist democracy), and you become subservient to it. 
Let's hope it gets better after Brexit :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

In think Airwars is making too much fuss. The killing of civilians is "a collateral damage" in achieving the higher, ultimate goal of the civilized and liberating mission by defeating the so-called Islamic State whose militants have beheaded our men, and Yazidis, and whose "jihadists" have killed our people in France, Germany and the US. "The price is worth it".

Coalition airforces kill "hundreds" of Mosul civilians

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The "civilized" can afford to build memorials for those who fought for ".Queen and country"; who fought the "uncivilized" in order to liberate women, and dogs. The resources and the idelogical machine of "the civilized" can afford to glorify barbarism, destruction, state terrorism so they look just and legitimate. Then they can afford, with no shame and qualms at all, to have their criminals who have perpetrated the destrcution and the "liberation" to be "peace envoys" or preachers at universities. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Scots do not want to live longer!

"Scotland is facing an unprecedented mortality crisis, according to newly released figures which reveal that, in the past three years, life expectancy has failed to rise for the first time since records were published in 1861." 
— The Sunday Times
30% of the Egyptian families have a woman as the only bread winner (BBC Arabic)

Monday, March 06, 2017

"Following what we’ve seen in Europe, it makes sense that when the populist right is in power, the center-left moves to the right. The Democrats are a little bit different, in that you’re going to see some semblance of a leftward movement — doubling down on the social inclusion part of the Democratic Party — and resisting some of Trump’s nativism, while moving rightward on issues of political economy to try to win over moderate segments of the capitalist class. I think you’ll see a leftward and a rightward movement at the same time."

Full interview here

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
  The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
  The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
  The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
  The best lack all conviction, while the worst
  Are full of passionate intensity."


W. B. Yeats

No, the Centre can still hold. The economic and political order since the 1980s, a form capitalism, has been accepted and supported by centre-right and centre-left governments of the same regime. The two movements which has opposed that order are now stigmatised as "populism". The revolutionary left is weak and divided. 


Despite the crises (economic, social, theoretical, and political), Brexit, Trump, refugees, etc. there is no real threat to the established order to compel the Centre to resort to the fascist or semi-fascist forces. No, the general crisis can still be managed by the Liberal centre without using the spare wheel. Even 15-25% electoral support for the far-right poses little threat to the system.

In the event of Trumpism turns into a straightforward fascism and control the state apparatus or a far-right movement in Europe take the state power "legally", politically the Centre would work with it. Economically, the capitalists would adapt themselves to it. The majority of people would show consent* and a minority would pay heavily for opposing it. 

*"The socio-economic status quo is widely detested. But it is 
regularly ratified at the polls with the re-election of parties 
responsible for it, because of fears that to upset the status, alarming markets, would bring worse misery." Perry Anderson
"My main point was that the current dominance of finance capital was not achieved only by force but also by what Gramsci called “consent.”

Against "progressive neoliberalism"

Saturday, March 04, 2017

“Under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not… No more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.” — Hannah Arendt

Friday, March 03, 2017

The American origin of the United Nations