1 Black Man Is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes in USA #Racism #WTFnews


How America Is Perpetually at War With Its Own People

From the war on drugs to the war on terror, law enforcement’s battle against minorities serves as pacification.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Eugene Ivanov

May 28, 2013  |
 Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extrajudicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012 according to a recent study. This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. The report notes that it’s possible that the real number could be much higher.

The report, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm”, was performed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an antiracist grassroots activist organization. The organization has chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. It has a history of organizing campaigns against police brutality and state repression in black and brown communities. Their study’s sources included police and media reports along with other publicly available information. Last year, the organization published a similar study showing that a black person is killed by security forces every 36 hours. However, this study did not tell the whole story, as it only looked at shootings from January to June 2012. Their latest study is an update of this.

These killings come on top of other forms of oppression black people face. Mass incarceration ofnonwhites is one of them. While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

“Operation Ghetto Storm” explains why such killings occur so often. Current practices of institutional racism have roots in the enslavement of black Africans, whose labor was exploited to build the American capitalist economy, and the genocide of Native Americans. The report points out that in order to maintain the systems of racism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation, the United States maintains a network of “repressive enforcement structures”. These structures include the police, FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, Secret Service, prisons, and private security companies, along with mass surveillance and mass incarceration.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is not the only group challenging police violence against African-Americans. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has been challenging the policy of stop-and-frisk in New York City, in which police officers randomly stop and search individuals for weapons or contraband. African-American and Latino men are disproportionately stopped and harassed by police officers. Most of those stopped (close to 90%) are innocent, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Stop Mass Incarceration also organizes against the War on Drugs and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Along with the rate of extrajudicial killings, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report contains other important findings. Of the 313 killed, 124 (40%) were between 22 and 31 years old, 57 (18%) were between 18 and 21 years old, 54 (17%) were between 32 and 41 years old, 32 (10%) were 42 to 51 years old, 25 (8%) were children younger than 18 years old, 18 (6%) were older than 52, and 3 (1%) were of unknown ages.

A significant portion of those killed, 68 people or 22%, suffered from mental health issues and/or were self-medicated. The study says that “[m]any of them might be alive today if community members trained and committed to humane crisis intervention and mental health treatment had been called, rather than the police.”

43% of the shootings occurred after an incident of racial profiling. This means police saw a person who looked or behaved “suspiciously” largely because of their skin color and attempted to detain the suspect before killing them. Other times, the shootings occurred during a criminal investigation (24%), after 9-1-1 calls from “emotionally disturbed loved ones” (19%) or because of domestic violence (7%), or innocent people were killed for no reason (7%).

Most of the people killed were not armed. According to the report, 136 people or 44%, had no weapon at all the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths in which police claimed the suspect had a gun but there was no corroboration to prove this. In addition, 6 people (2%) were alleged to have possessed knives or similar tools. Those who did, in fact, possess guns or knives were 20% (62 people) and 7% (23 people) of the study, respectively.

The report digs into how police justify their shootings. Most police officers, security guards, or vigilantes who extrajudicially killed black people, about 47% (146 of 313), claimed they “felt threatened”, “feared for their life”, or “were forced to shoot to protect themselves or others”. George Zimmerman, the armed self-appointed neighborhood watchman who killed Trayvon Martin last year, claimed exactly this to justify shooting Martin. Other justifications include suspects fleeing (14%), allegedly driving cars toward officers, allegedly reaching for waistbands or lunging, or allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. Only 13% or 42 people fired a weapon “before or during the officer’s arrival”.

Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society conditions police (and many other people) to assume black people are violent to begin with. This leads to police overacting in situations involving African-American suspects. It also explains why so many police claimed the black suspect “looked suspicious” or “thought they had a gun”. Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in January 2009, claimed Grant had a gun, even though Grant was subdued to the ground by other officers.

Of the 313 killings, the report found that 275 of them or 88% were cases of excessive force. Only 8% were not considered excessive as they involved cases where suspects shot at, wounded, or killed a police and/or others. Additionally, 4% were situations were the facts surrounding the killing were “unclear or sparsely reported”. The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability.

***

Over the past 70 years, the “repressive enforcement structures” described in the report have been used to “wage a grand strategy of ‘domestic’ pacification” to maintain the system through endless “containment campaigns” amounting to “perpetual war”. According to the report, this perpetual war has been called multiple names — the “Cold War”, COINTELPRO, the “War on Drugs, the “War on Gangs”, the “War on Crimes”, and now the “War on Terrorism”. This pacification strategy is designed to subjugate oppressed populations and stifle political resistance. In other words, they are wars against domestic marginalized groups. “Extrajudicial killings”, says the report, “are clearly an indispensable tool in the United States government’s pacification pursuits.” It attributes the preponderance of these killings to institutionalized racism and policies within police departments.

Paramilitary police units, known as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, developed in order to quell black riots in major cities, such as Los Angeles and Detroit, during the 1960s and ’70s. SWAT teams had major shootouts with militant black and left-wing groups, such as the Black Panther Party and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1969 and 1974, respectively. SWAT teams were only used for high-risk situations, until the War on Drugs began in the 1980s. Now they’re used in raids — a common military tactic — of suspected drug or non-drug offenders’ homes.

The War on Drugs, first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, was largely a product of U.S. covert operations. Anti-communist counter-revolutionaries, known as the “Contras”, were trained, funded, and largely created by the CIA to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s. However, the CIA’s funding was not enough. Desperate for money, the Contras needed other funding sources to fight their war against the Sandinistas. The additional dollars came from the drug trade. The late investigative journalist Gary Webb, in 1996, wrote a lengthy series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled “Dark Alliance”, detailing how the Contras smuggled cocaine from South America to California’s inner cities and used the profits to fund their fight against the Sandinista government. The CIA knew about this but turned a blind eye. The report received a lot of controversy, criticism, and tarnishing of Webb’s journalistic career, which would lead him to commit suicide in 2004. However, subsequent reports from Congressional hearings and other journalists corroborated Webb’s findings.

Moreover, major banks, such as Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) and HSBC have laundered money for drug dealers. Therefore, the very threat that the Drug War claims to eliminate is perpetuated more by the National Security State and Wall Street than by low-level street dealers. But rather than go after thebigger fish, the United States has used the pretext of the “war on drugs” to implement draconian police tactics on marginalized groups, particularly poor black communities.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan passed the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act, which provided civilian police agencies equipment, training, and advising from the military, along with access to military research and facilities. This weakened the line between the military and civilian law enforcement established by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, a Reconstruction-era law forbidding military personnel from enforcing domestic laws. Five years later, in 1986, Reagan issuedNational Security Decision Directive 221, which declared drug trafficking a national security threat to the United States. This militarized the U.S. approach to drugs and overall policing. Additionally, the global war on terror and growth of the National Security State expanded this militarization of domestic police under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.

The adoption of military tactics, equipment, training, and weapons leads to law enforcement adopting a war-like mentality. They come to view themselves as soldiers fighting against a foreign enemy rather police protecting a community. Nick Pastore, a former Police Chief of New Haven, Connecticut from 1990 to 1997, turned down military equipment that was offered to him. “I turned it all down, because it feeds a mind-set that you’re not a police officer serving a community, you’re a soldier at war,” he told the New York Times. He said “tough-guy cops” in his department pushed for “bigger and more hardware” and “used to say, ‘It’s a war out there.'” Pastore added, “If you think everyone who uses drugs is the enemy, then you’re more likely to declare war on the people.” Mix this war-like mentality with already existing societal anti-black racism and the result is deadly. Black people, who, by default, are assumed to be criminals because of their skin color, become the victims of routine police violence.

The fact that a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante every 28 hours (or less) is no random act of nature. It is the inevitable result of institutional racism and militaristic tactics and thinking within America’s domestic security apparatus.

 

Adam Hudson is a journalist, writer, and photographer.

 

International Women’s Day Past and Present- Anuradha Ghandy #mustead #mustshare


8 March 2001 is the 91st anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD), which was first declared in 1910. In that year, Clara Zetkin, inspired by the working class women’s movement in America, proposed to the Second International Conference of the Socialist Working Women that an annual celebration of women’s day be held. The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s right and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

 

As a result of this decision, the first International Women’s Day was held on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and an end to discrimination on the job. The date was chosen by Germany women as 19 March, because, on that date in 1848, the Prussian king, faced with an armed uprising, had promised many reforms, including an unfulfilled one of votes for women.

 

In 1913, the date for the IWD was changed to 8 March. This was to commemorate tow important events which occurred on that day. On 8 March 1857, women garment and textile workers in New York City had staged, for the first time, a protest against in-human working conditions, the 12-hour work day and low wages. The marchers were attacked and dispersed by the police. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first union. Again on 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan‘Bread and Roses’; with bread symbolizing economic security and roses, a better quality of life. In May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of the National Women’s Day.

 

The first National Women’s Day was observed across the USA on 28 February 1909. Soon, women in Europe began celebrating Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February. It was in this background that Clara Zetkin put forward the proposal for an International Women’s Day at the 1910 Conference of the Women’s Socialist International. Within a week of the first celebrations in 1911, on 25 March 1911, over 140 working girls were killed in the tragic Triangle Fire in the USA. This event had a far reaching effect on labour legislation in the USA and gave the IWD a further impetus.

 

On the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day in 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest against the war or to express solidarity with oppressed women. The most famous International Working Women’s Day was the 8 March 1917 (24 February in the Russian style calendar) strike for ‘bread and peace’ led by the Russian women of St. Petersburg. Both Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai took part in this event. The IWD strike merges with the riots that had spread throughout the city between 8-12 March. The February Revolution, as it came to be known, forced the Czar to abdicate.

In the Soviet Union, 8 March was declared a national holiday and accompanied by a celebration of ‘the heroic women workers’.Since then, 8 March has grown in significance, and its celebrations throughout the world have marked a growing awareness of women’s rights. The great advances achieved in women’s rights in the Soviet Union, after the socialist revolution, were an inspiration to women throughout the world. The Chinese revolution in 1949 showed how, even in one of the most backward countries of the world, seeped in feudal values and patriarchal thinking, women can be aroused for change. The gigantic strides made by women in socialist China were a living example for women throughout the Third World. Particularly, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and its consistent attack on feudal Confucian thinking, acted as a great source for the further emancipation of women in China. Comrade Chiang Chiang was its living symbol.

 

The 1960s and early 1970s, which saw a strong democratic upsurge in the capitalist countries and powerful national liberation movements in the Third World, also witnessed a rejuvenation of the women’s liberation movement. The movement had such an enormous impact throughout the world that the imperialists sought to destroy it through co-option and diversion into acceptable channels. This resulted in large, corporate or state-funded NGOs vehemently attacking socialism, and putting for-ward a bourgeois form of feminism. The process of co-option culminated in the United Nations officially recognizing 8 March as the International Women’s Day in 1977. Since then, the most bourgeois and reactionary organizations have also come to ‘celebrate’ 8 March, depriving it of its revolutionary content and great history of struggle, through which it originated. This process was further catalysed with the reversal of socialism, first in the Soviet Union, and, later, in China. The first casualty of these reversals was the denial of some of the rights achieved by women under socialism.

Yet, the International Women’s Day continues to live on amongst the oppressed women of the world. The temporary setback of the communist movement and socialism, and the re-assertion of capitalism/imperialism, has hit women hard. Globalizations, and the crass consumerism associated with it, have witnessed the mass commodification of women, on a scale unheard of before. The cosmetic industry, tourism and bourgeois media have degraded the women’s body as never before, without any respect for their individuality. This, coupled with mass poverty, has led to entire populations turning to prostitution as witnessed in East Europe, East Asia, Nepal, etc. Coupled with this, the rise of religious fundamentalism and various sects throughout the world is pushing another section of women back to a status of the Dark Ages. Squeezed between these two extremes, women, today, more than ever before, feel the need for assertion, for self-respect and equality with their male counterparts. 8 March has, therefore, an even greater significance today.

 

The revisionists and bourgeois liberals seek to dampen the women’s spirit of freedom, displaying mock ‘concern,’ acting as condescending saviors, confining women to their home. They compromise with patriarchal values, feudal traditions and fear women’s emancipation and assertion. They, of course, also ‘celebrate’ women’s day, as a routine, issuing out the regular hypocritical statements.

 

It is the revolutionary forces throughout the world, and, more particularly, the Maoists, who have brought back a living vibrancy to the IWD, making it, once again, a day symbolizing the struggle of women for freedom, self-respect, equality and emancipation from all patriarchal values and exploitative practices. It is this revolutionary spirit that kindles a new hope in the future for the oppressed women of India, and the world.

 

From: Scripting the Change- Selected writings of Anuradha Ghandy- DAANISH BOOKS

 

PRESS RELEASE-Women from India Demand for End to Gender Violence as the 57th Session Starts of UN Commission on Status of Women #womensday


 

For immediate release

 

 

7 March 2013, 1 pm to 3 pm at Geneva Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office,866 UN Plaza,Suite 120,New York NY 10017 & 12 March 2013, 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm at Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office, 866 UN Plaza, Suite 120, New York NY 10017

 

New York,7 March 2013: 1 Billion Rising campaign states, “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime”. According to UNDP, “72 million children “ 54% of them girls are out of school” and about billion women fall short of economic potential. According to UN Women 50% of women who die from homicides worldwide are killed by their current/former husbands/ partners.Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income. According to World Bank,” Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in employment could increase productivity per worker by up to 40 percent”.Feministing states 40% of the child soldiers of the world are girls. According to the Control Arms 26 million people are forced to flee their homes every year due to armed conflict. UN Women states approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996, though the actual numbers are considered to be much higher.

 

In north east India, armed violence has taken its toll on the very notion of “normal civilian life” and led to innumerable instances of violations committed against civilian populations particularly women by both state and non-state actors. In most operations, be they cordon and search, combing, arrests, searches, or interrogation, the armed forces have, under the aegis of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) done away with the basic, minimal safeguards accorded to women suspects by the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the SC directives. Arrest by male security personnel, interrogation in army camps and police stations, torture and sexual abuse including rape by security personnel in custody has become routine. In Jammu & Kashmir mass rape of Kashmiri women by security forces was first documented in the Chapora (Srinagar) mass rape incident on March 7, 1990. Violations of women have also been reported from non-state groups. The Hmar Women Association (HWA) submitted a memorandum to to government where “the plights of Hmar tribal women in Tipaimukh sub-division of Churachandpur, Manipur, India  who were raped and molested by two armed groups during January 2006.

 

In short women are facing violence and discrimination both in conflict as well as non conflict areas and the number is increasing.

 

At the backdrop of recent rise of women in India and around world on ending violence and the convening of fifty seventh session of UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW), Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Control Arms Foundation of India are hosting a  panel discussion on the theme “Six Decades of UN Commission on Status of Women: Status of Women Now Worldwide and Evolving New Strategies to Ensure Elimination & Prevention of all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls” on 7 March 2013, 1 pm to 3 pm at Geneva Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office,866 UN Plaza,Suite 120,New York NY 10017 .

 

Distinguished panelists of the event will  include Ms Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict; Dip. Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Chair-Foreign Affairs Committee, Chamber of Deputies, Dominican Republic & Chair-International Council, Parliamentarians for Global Action; Ms Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Mission for Empowerment of Women ,Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India; Mr Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil, Deputy Minister, International Development, Norway; Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder,Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Control Arms Foundation of India.

 

On 12 March 2013, we are also hosting another panel discussion on the theme “Women, Peace and Security: Strategies To End Violence Against Women In Armed Conflict Areas And Leading Humanitarian Disarmament Efforts” , 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm at Conference Room, Bahai United Nations Office, 866 UN Plaza, Suite 120, New York NY 10017. The event will be chaired by Dr. Swadesh Rana, Former Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch in the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs. Distinguished panelists will include Ms May Malony & Sharna de Lacy, Young Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom YWILPF, Australia; Dr. Angana Chatterji, Co-chair of Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights, Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, University of California, Berkeley; Ms Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch; Dr Walter Dorn, Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group & Professor, Royal Military College of Canada and Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Control Arms Foundation of India. As we believe that gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and from fear. Empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development, peace and reducing poverty. Kindly join the event.

 

 

 

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India. Email: Binalakshmi@gmail.com. US mobile number: 3472165709

B 5/146, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi-110029, India Phone: +9-11-46018541, Fax: +91-11-6166234. Websites: www.cafi-online.comwww.womensurvivorsnetwork.org

 

A pecking order falls #sundayreading


Author(s): Garga Chatterjee, DOWN TO EARTH
Date: Dec 15, 2012

The veil of civilisation and Hurricane Sandy

Garga ChatterjeeGarga Chatterjee

We live in a world filled with theories of human nature, or more correctly, theories of human nature that explain differences between people. Such theories have a wide ranging currency and explain differences between people in things as varied as poverty, labour efficiency, honesty, graciousness, violence (or lack thereof), scientific progress, cleanliness of streets, alcoholism, sexual prowess and what not. The power of these theories are in that they set the agenda, around which we create our perceptions of ourselves and others, our assessment of the present, our hopes for the future, our aspirations and desires.

This is why it is important we take such “human nature” theories seriously and critically, for they define our present and limit our future. The cold-blooded violence of the Taliban, the simplicity of Chhattisgarh adivasis, the mathematical ability of Tamil brahmins, the ability of German companies to build precision instruments, the courteousness (“How are you doing?”) of a white bus driver in Boston, the sense of justice of the British, the spirit of entrepreneurship of immigrant Europeans in North America, the dapper look of a New York police officer, the sense of duty, discipline and punctuality that is apparently absent among brown folks—this long list is only a small set of qualities that are attributed to the intrinsic nature of a group of people. The Pashtun are prone to gratuitous violence “by nature”. The other examples I cite also have this quality of being explained by the nature of the people, an ethnic-quality, so to say, that specially marks them out, for good or for bad.

This way of explaining away differences between people not only obfuscates strands of commonality between them but also works against initiatives of transformation of societies from within (Pashtun women cannot “save” themselves and Pashtun men cannot have any role in such an initiative). Such ideas also make us permanent prisoners of an inferiority complex (lazy, dishonest, unclean brown men)—piecemeal personal liberation coming through some kind of an internal theorising that one is among the very few with the “wrong” skin but the “right” nature.

Our world has this organisation, this “civilisational” pecking order of sorts, which manages to encroach upon our innermost subjectivities, deeply colouring our attitudes and aspirations. It even warps our sense of aesthetics, so much so that we cannot even make ourselves dislike what we may know to be bad. For example, my modern urban aesthetic can only imagine beauty in concrete while I know that paving the ground makes rainwater run off, causing water tables to drop. The alternatives, soil, dust, clay, have lost all aesthetic appeal, irrespective of my public posturing. This crisis has multiple far-reaching implications—environmental effects are only one of them.

imageIllustration: Vaibhav Raghunandan

It is not easy to see the world bare naked, without the ideological veil of the civilisational pecking order, especially when it has been naturalised. Rare are the moments when the veil is lifted. It is the witnessing of such rare moments that helps one unlearn, cleanse oneself off handed-down ideologies and breathe easy. And here comes the story of the hurricane. For nature in itself (not our perception of nature) has not been brainwashed.

Because it has not been brainwashed, it can be irreverent, indiscriminate. It can lash Haiti’s coastline and lower Manhattan in similar ways and in one stroke can be the great equaliser when dehumanised Haitians and refined New Yorkers, the “animal” and the “ideal”, both are frightened and shiver. Rare are these moments when layer upon layer of ideology, constructed over centuries, can be briefly peeled back to show what is generally concealed by the apparent disparities between the garbage-scavenger of Mumbai and the iPhone-toting yuppie New Yorker. The approaching Hurricane Sandy caused panic. People tried to stock up on water and food. There were fistfights to buy water.

There was no queue. There was no “discipline”. There was no “West”. There is no “West” without surplus—the genie that bankrolls the breathing space between mere survival and the life of consumer dignity.

A friend from New Jersey called. There was no electricity. “What’s the correct way to wash clothes without the machine? You are from India, you know right!” Alas, I am from elite Kolkata, but I knew by seeing. Put water, put clothes, put soap. He said, “and then spin by hand?” He wanted to mimic the machine. With the power gone, the powerlessness showed. Notions of differential “progress” due to difference in “intrinsic” nature become dubious in such circumstances.

Of course, electricity gets restored. But to look at your belief system being battered by a hurricane is not easy.

It is not easy to see unclean public lavatories that you thought you had left behind in the tropics. Just one day of a Hurricane blessed holiday of the underclass janitors is enough to create a stench that one has learned to associate with some and not with some. In the gullet of Manhattan, from where the Empire State Building cannot be seen, pecking orders briefly collapse. They collapse without hurricanes too, on a daily basis, between the rounds that the janitor makes, in the obnoxious splatters in lavatories of Michelin starred restaurants, in the toilets left unflushed in the most exclusive of hotels. The frequent restroom cleaning keeps the ideological veneer on for us to aspire and be awed. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Surplus makes near-godliness achievable on this earth.

For a significant part of the year I live in a locality of Kolkata. This is also where I grew up—a distinctly “down-market” area called Chetla. People often wear lungis on streets and near the railway bridge, there are lumps of human excreta on the roadside every morning. As I stroll down the manicured streets of Boston, a dirty thought emerges. If the surplus were to evaporate, would the sauve Bostonian come to resemble my people from Chetla? How would the sidewalks of Massachusetts Avenue look early in the morning? Would the air still be filled with the nauseatingly high number of “Thank yous” , “Sorrys” and “Excuse mes” I say and hear every day? Would this veneer of gracefulness, thankfulness, personal space, yoga retreats and wine-tastings still mesmerise? What does it take to lift the veil? The ease of unravelling might hold better clues to our commonalities and differences than ideologies of progress and development.

Hurricanes can only pull out a couple of such veils, that too very briefly. Meanwhile, in other parts of global urbania that are playing catch-up, elaborate mechanisms of creating lavatories and frequently cleaning them are being finalised. However, they do not have the advantage of acquiring shipfuls of humans from Senegal. Their dreams of creating a “world-class” Delhi need more than a few fingers of Katam Suresh of Gompad, Chattisgarh. One needs many Chhattisgarhs, millions of fingers to adorn the necks of thousands of unreformed “Angulimalas”. To “naturally” fit into the class of connoisseurs of “Belgian” chocolate, one needs to be better than King Leopold. King Leopold of Belgium. Google him. Léopold Louis Philippe Marie Victor. Even their names sound better between hurricanes.

Garga Chatterjee is a columnist and fellow at MIT Boston in the US

 

Activists protest imprisonment of Indian journalist


By Sumit Galhotra/CPJ Steiger Fellow
Supporters of Lingaram Kodopi and his aunt gathered in New York’s Union Square on October 4. (CPJ/Sumit Galhotra)

A couple dozen activists gathered this past week in New York City’s Union Square to protest the imprisonment of freelance journalist Lingaram Kodopi and his aunt Soni Sori, who were arrested one year ago in India.

According to local human rights activists and journalists, authorities wanted to prevent Kodopi from publicizing the role of police in violence in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, where security forces and Maoists are at war. In April 2011, the 26-year-old journalist documented the destruction of houses during an anti-Maoist police operation in three Dantewada district villages and “recorded on video precise narrations of police atrocities,” Tehelka reported. Kodopi was charged with anti-state activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act and sections 121, 124A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, sedition, and waging war against the state.

The New York protest was organized by the Association for India’s Development and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, and endorsed by groups like Amnesty International USA. Demonstrators gathered near a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Prachi Patankar, a member of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, told CPJ, “While based here we can internationalize the issue. Journalists–not just in India–but elsewhere face similar challenges from their governments.”  The event has sparked a sense of curiosity, she said.

Activists noted that Kodopi and his aunt have been tortured in prison.  According to Telheka, Kodopi was beaten and held in a police toilet for 40 days. According to Human Rights Watch, Sori has been sexually assaulted and beaten. The government has failed to take action against those responsible for their torture, and the two remain in custody awaiting trial.

“It’s a very dangerous climate,” prominent Indian activist Himanshu Kumar told CPJ at the protest. “Journalists can’t report the truth. And if they dare to report on the reality, the government accuses them of being a Maoist and gives them a hard time, and even imprisons them.” Only the journalists who report the government version can survive, Kumar said.

This is certainly not the first time that authorities in India have targeted the press for shedding light on human rights abuses. In January 2011, police arrested journalist Sudhir Dhawale, who documented human rights violations for the Marathi-language monthly Vidrohi. Like Kodopi, he was charged with sedition and waging war against the state and was also charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Dhawale’s supporters say he was detained because he was a critic of a state-supported, anti-Maoist militia active in Chhattisgarh state, a center of the violence between Maoists and the state. Dhawale remains imprisoned, according to media reports.

R.I.P – Radical Feminist and author of ‘Dialectic of Sex,’ dies in NYC at 67


Shulamith FirestoneFeminist author Shulamith Firestone whose work radicalized second wave feminist thinking passes away at homeBorn in Ottawa on January 7, 1945, Firestone was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in St. Louis, Missouri. During the 1960s she studied fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and moved to New York City in 1967 where she co-founded New York Radical Women, the Redstockings group, and New York Radical Feminists.In 1970, at the age of 25, Firestone wroteThe Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution — a book that effectively kickstarted the cyberfeminist movement, influencing later thinkers like Joanna Russ(author of “The Female Man“), sci-fi author Joan Slonczweski, and of course, Donna “I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess” Harraway, author of “The Cyborg Manifesto.” To come up with her unique feminist philosophy, Firestone took 19th and 20th century socialist thinking and fused it with Freudian psychoanalysis and the existentialist perspectives of Simone de Beauvoir.

Seeing how the civil rights and antiwar movements treated women as second-class citizens, she co-founded three feminist organizations: New York Radical Women, the Redstockings and New York Radical Feminists. She also edited three important collections of feminist writing, beginning in 1968 with “Notes from the First Year.”

Essentially, Firestone argued that gender inequality was the result of a patriarchal social structure that had been imposed upon women on account of their necessary role as incubators. She argued that pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing imposed physical, social, and psychological disadvantages upon women. Firestone believed that the only way for women to free themselves from these biological impositions would be to seize control of reproduction.

To that end, she advocated for the development of cybernetic and assistive reproductive technologies, including artificial wombs, gender selection, and in vitro fertilization (the latter two now being in existence). In addition, she also advocated for the dissemination of contraception, abortion, and state support for child-rearing. It would be through these “revolts” and transformations that women could eliminate the presence of sexual classes. Firestone wrote:

[The] end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud’s ‘polymorphous perversity’ – would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of. either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally.

“A revolutionary in every bedroom cannot fail to shake up the status quo,” Firestone wrote. “And if it is your wife that is revolting, you can’t just split to the suburbs. Feminism, when it truly achieves its goals, will crack through the most basic structures of our society.”

Subtitled “The Case for Feminist Revolution,” Firestone’s book was considered essential reading for feminists and in college courses on women’s studies.

“No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical … second-wave landmark,” feminist writer Naomi Wolf wrote when the book was reissued in 2003.

Firestone emerged as a radical voice during a fertile era for feminist theory. Her “Dialectic” became a bestseller the same year as Kate Millett’s “Sexual Politics,” a feminist critique of works by D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Norman Mailer; and Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch,” which examined history, literature, biology and popular culture.

Some feminists believed that Firestone “had found the solution” to sexual inequality, according to Ruth Rosen in “The World Split Open” (2000), a history of the modern women’s movement. But other feminists were incensed by her ideas, particularly because, Rosen wrote, “Firestone seemed to accept men as the normative human being, rather than demanding that society accommodate — and honor — women’s important biological contribution as the bearers and rearers of children.”

The division of labor (and labor altogether) would be ended through cybernetics, she argued, so that the “tyranny of the biological family would be broken.”

Not a fan of traditional biological human reproduction, Firestone described pregnancy as “barbaric,” and noted how a friend of hers described labor to “shitting a pumpkin.”

Modern feminists have largely turned a blind eye to Firestone and the role of technology in feminist discourse, but her influence can still be seen today in such things as transhumanism and the rise of postgenderist theory.

Soon after the publication of Dialectics, Firestone excused herself from public life and largely disappeared from the scene. In 1998 she published her book, Airless Spaces, in which she detailed her struggles with schizophrenia. Firestone became reclusive in her later years, dying alone in her apartment. She is survived by her mother, two brothers, and two sisters.

Mother’s Day Proclamation – demand for disarmament and peace


The First Mother’s Day proclaimed in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe
was a passionate demand for disarmament and peace.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Biography of Julia Ward Howe

US feminist, reformer, and writer Julia Ward Howe was born May 27, 1819 in New York City. She married Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston, a physician and social reformer. After the Civil War, she campaigned for women rights, anti-slavery, equality, and for world peace. She published several volumes of poetry, travel books, and a play. She became the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1908. She was an ardent antislavery activist who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1862, sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body. She wrote a biography in 1883 of Margaret Fuller, who was a prominent literary figure and a member of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transcendentalists. She died in 1910.

 

Why Protest Psychiatry? – Human Rights Activism @Mindfreedom Radio , May 12th


MindFreedom International News-Human Rights Activism in Psychiatry

http://www.mindfreedom.org/radio
~~~~~~~~~

“Why Protest the American Psychiatric Association?”

Your Calls Welcome!

MindFreedom Live Free Web Radio Next Guests:

Protesters at this Past Weekend’s “Occupy APA”! —       Susan Rogers & Frank Blankenship, And Your Calls

   **THIS** Sat., 12 May 2012, 2 pm ET, 11 am PT

Listen and call in live as these two activists and others report on and discuss the protest of the American Psychiatric Association’s upcoming Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, at MindFreedom Live Web Radio here:
www.blogtalkradio.com/davidwoaks
Call-in Number:             (646) 595-2125

GUESTS:

SUSAN ROGERS, one of the coordinators of Occupy APA, directs the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse, a peer-run national technical assistance center funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (Organization listed for identification purposes only.)


FRANK BLANKENSHIP is a long-time activist, blogger and protester for human rights in the mental health system, and founder of MindFreedomFlorida. Frank chairs the MFI Affiliate Support Committee.

The protest itself was held directly across the street from the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association when they met in Philadelphia this past weekend, 5 May 2012. Solidarity actions were held in a number of other locations internationally.

For news, photos, video, etc. from this event, along with info about solidarity events and how you can participate anywhere, go tohttp://www.boycottnormal.org.

HOST: CELIA BROWN is a psychiatric survivor in New York City, and President of MindFreedom International, is takes the place of host David Oaks.

~~~~~~~

HOW TO LISTEN & CALL IN LIVE

Why or Why Not Protest American Psychiatric Association? What’s your view?

At the start of the show, this Sat., 12 May 2012, 2 pm ET or 11 am PT, go directly to the Blog Talk Radio site hosting the monthly “Second Saturday” show, here:

www.blogtalkradio.com/davidwoaks

There you can listen and call in LIVE, or hear the archive later.

Call-in Number:             (646) 595-2125

YOUR live calls, suggestions, questions are encouraged.

You can call in via phone, BlogTalkRadio web site or Skype.

Can’t get to a computer that day? First 50 listeners can use the call-in number             (646) 595-2125       just to listen, like a teleconference.

Online, you can also join a live chat with MFI Web Mad Radio show producer Sophie Faught.

~~~~~~~~~
Clickable version of above news alert with more tips and photos of guests, here:
http://www.mindfreedom.org/radio
~~~~~~~~~
Please FORWARD this to all who may support a nonviolent revolution in the mental health system.
~~~~~~~~~

Support MindFreedom International, an independent, united, activist coalition.

All are welcome. While a majority of MFI’s members identify as survivors of abuse in the mental health system, members include family allies, advocates and concerned mental health professionals.

MFI is one the few groups in mental health to say “no” to mental health industry funding… Therefore YOUR membership and donation drive MindFreedom International’s campaigns for human rights and alternatives.

Join or donate now:
http://www.mindfreedom.org/join-donate

Benefits include the MindFreedom Journal, special web and e-mail networking, discount on http://www.madmarket.org purchases, MindFreedom Shield, member services office… and a nonviolent revolution in mental health.

Mind Your Freedom!

Donate, join now or renew early here:
http://www.mindfreedom.org/join-donate

A Victory for Young People at the United Nations


From April 23 to April 27, 2012, the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) met at the United Nations in New York City. The CPD is an annual week-long meeting at the UN where advocates and members states gather to create a resolution document that upholds the Programme of Action created at the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) in 1994. Since the theme of this year’s CPD was Adolescents and Youth, a main focus of the negotiations was ensuring the sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) for young people. Prior to the CPD, IWHC held an intensive multi-day Advocacy in Practice (AiP) workshop to help support participants advocating for SRRH at the national and international levels (pictured left).

International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and our advocate colleagues, including members of RESURJ, are very excited that late Friday, UN member states issued a bold resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights. This victory is a result of a week of very long days: hard work and strategic advocacy was put forth by an amazing group of advocates, who camped out at the UN here in New York for many long hours, going over language, making suggestions, and working with country delegates to make much-needed changes in the resolution.

Key points of the final resolution include:

  1. The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality
  2. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion where legal, that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate
  3. The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education
  4. Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion“At this time of global uncertainty, there is no more important investment to be made,” said south African youth delegate Kgomotso Papo during the closing plenary. “Only healthy young people whose human rights are protected can be fully productive workers and effective participants in their country’s political processes. Only when young people are healthy and empowered can they contribute to building strong communities and vibrant nations.

Who will bell the Cat ? #Tribalrights


At the receiving end: Paniyas in Gudalur. Photo: Mari Marcel Thekaekara

MARI MARCEL THEKAEKARA, April 14, 2012, The Hindu

What does one do when a tiger‘s life is apparently more precious than an Adivasi‘s?

On March 30, Kokila, an Adivasi woman, was collecting firewood with a few friends near Kozhikolly village in the Devala area of Gudalur taluk, 50 km below Udhagamandalam, when she was charged by an angry elephant. It hurled her to the ground. Mercifully, I hope, she died instantly. The elephant kicked her around like a football and smashed her into a pulp. An Adivasi who saw the incident said, “It was terrible. She was smashed to pieces, like chamandi actually. We had to collect the bits and put them into a sack. It was a sad and sickening task. We could not prepare her for burial according to our rites. There was no body left.”

A passionate conservationist asked me, “Did they get compensation?” The question angered me. Kokila was a lively, feisty, irrepressible woman. Panichis, women belonging to the Paniya tribe, are independent, proud and they tend to keep to themselves. Kokila was different. She represented her people, even becoming a Panchayat member, really unusual for a Panichi woman. I recall her taking a lead on stage in dramas. She was bold and theatrical, making everyone laugh, dancing infectiously with abandon, urging everyone to join her. How do you compensate the death of such a woman? Of any woman for that matter? Can you replace the person for her family? Her children? Her people?

No one deserves this

Does anyone deserve to die in such a dreadful manner, for absolutely no fault of their own?

I live on the edge of a forest and all my friends and community are passionate about conservation. When elephants break our water tanks, or create havoc for a few days, we accept it philosophically. After all, we are living on their turf, in once-uninhabited terrain. It’s okay to lose a little. For the poorer population, a paddy or banana field gone is their entire livelihood. I shudder when I hear people throwing huge loud firecrackers to chase away the menace. I’m even more distraught when I hear that they throw burning tyres, which will stick on the elephants’ skin, cause terrible pain and is the only thing guaranteed to make the animal move. But I know I’m reacting like a city armchair environmentalist, sitting safe and sound in my solid stone bungalow listening to the screaming and the firecrackers from a comfortable distance while poor people battle for their lives, their livelihoods and their precarious homes.

Collision course

In the last year in the Gudalur area, there have been elephant problems every day, leaving the locals angry and fearful; a really unhealthy lethal combination. Last year, two people were killed around the same time in different locations by two separate elephants. One, a poor Gurkha working as an estate watchman, far away from his northern home. The other, an anonymous youth on a bike.

Even as I mourn the dead victims — collateral damage, wild lifers would say perhaps — I understand the rage of the elephants. Elephant behaviour has drastically changed even in the last two decades I’ve lived here. Every pachyderm has bullet wounds festering and hurting the animal; injuries that have driven the once-docile beasts to regard humans as the enemy. Adivasi elders tell us that they walked among the elephants without fear 50 years ago. Those days are long gone. As I write this, I hear about a child gored by a wild boar outside her balwadi. Luckily, she’s not dead, only badly wounded, recovering in the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital.

My entire family are wildlife enthusiasts; two of my kids were born here. We’ve lived outside the sanctuary for almost 30 years now. I believe sanctuaries must be sacrosanct. I believe we must protect our tigers and our elephants and the less exciting unknown species that co-exist with them. I know all the conservationist theories. We need to move people out. But forest dwelling Adivasis have rights too. And till they choose to move out; they have a right to stay safe. The Forest Department, in order to protect wildlife, should dig those elephant trenches around vulnerable habitations. It’s hard to explain to ordinary people, apart from armchair wildlife enthusiasts, why a tiger’s life is deemed so much more important than our laughing, dancing, full-of-the-joy-of-life Kokila. A tiger’s death mostly makes it to every newspaper in the country; each life is precious, counted, documented by tiger lovers in London and New York. It makes for eye-catching, sexy photographs too. Our Kokila will never make headlines. Perhaps the Coimbatore editions will carry an item: “Tribal woman killed by elephant”.

That’s what ordinary village people find incomprehensible. Sometimes, when I think about it, I do too

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