October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
A 1992 documentary by the brilliant Adam Curtis about the rise of Monetarism during Britain’s economis crisis in the 1970s. As countries accross Europe bow to the seemingly inexorable logic of austerity and the European Union attempts to lock in a neoliberal model of economic governance, it has lost none of its relevance.
October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
By Claire Chambers
What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as ‘Muslim fiction’? If so, is it cultural background or belief that makes writing (or identity) Muslim?
My book, British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first in a two-part book project, which seeks answers to these complex questions. It is a collection of conversations with writers who live or work in Britain and have an intimate relationship with Islam, whether they are religious, cultural, or even – paradoxically – atheist Muslims, and whether South Asian, Arab, African, or European.
Over thirteen interviews, I talked to Anglophone writers including Aamer Hussein, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Leila Aboulela, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab. This is a group of writers who are highly diverse but, like a loosely connected and often discordant family, they have much in common, through their connections both to Islam and the United Kingdom. As well as discussing their literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the war on terror, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook), and is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years.
As you can tell from my name, I am not from a Muslim background myself, although I was fortunate enough to grow up in Leeds in West Yorkshire, surrounded by many South Asian Muslim friends. As clichéd as it may sound, my worldview has also been crucially shaped by my gap year, 1993-94, which I spent teaching English in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of eighteen. I went on to specialize in South Asian literature in English as a postgraduate student, and continue to fuel my interest by return visits to the Indian subcontinent and by working with diasporic communities.
October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Britain’s most fearless investigative journalist Peter Oborne follows up his excellent work exposing Britain’s Israel lobby and the Murdoch empire with another devastating documentary about the myriad conflicts of interest of the execrable Tony Blair. (Also see Ali Abunimah’s piece on Blair’s myriad shady dealings).
International viewers can watch the documentary below:
September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Narrated by Tony Benn, with music by Brian Eno. The clip ends with a call to join the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on 8 October: http://www.antiwarassembly.org
September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
by Brenda Heard
The images have become commonplace. Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns. Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambo’s. Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target. These are the images of contemporary conflict. Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.
True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself. True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility. But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception. The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths—but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.
In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEi—Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition ‘provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain’. DSEi further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions. Just have a look at its slick website offering ‘infinite opportunities’ to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.
The DSEi exhibit organiser, Clarion Events, offers a patronising disclaimer:
While we would all wish to see a world in which no nation has any need of equipment for defence or peacekeeping, it is not the world we live in now.
August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Author Hari Kunzru writes on the British riots in an excellent piece for The Guardian‘s Comment is free:
In a society that has abandoned or devalued most forms of mutual assistance in favour of a solipsistic entrepreneurialism, it’s hardly surprising that, faced with the end of the good times, people help themselves. Fear and greed are our ruling passions. That’s true of the kids smashing shop windows to steal trainers. It’s also true of the MPs fiddling their expenses, the police officers taking backhanders, the journalists breaking into phones. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t any of us? The example has been set by our new masters, the one per cent for whom and by whom we’re governed. The ability of powerful actors in the financial markets to socialise risk while privatising profit appears, to the financial peasantry, indistinguishable from organised crime. No reason for the rest of us to stand on ceremony.
One may object to this rhetoric (bankers = looters) on the grounds that markets have social utility, or that bankers don’t beat up shopkeepers (they don’t have to) and sometimes give to charity. One may also feel that any attempt to understand the rioters’ motivations risks shading into justification. The strongest objection to any argument based on social conditions is the oft-made one about individual responsibility: whatever the prevailing economic or social situation, not everyone chooses to behave in a particular way, whether that’s insider trading or knocking over Evans Cycles. However, it’s hard not to think we’ve made a culture in which the strong and swift are encouraged to feel they bear no responsibility towards the halt and lame. Now, as the wheels fall off the global financial system, fear and greed are free to roam unchecked, without bothering to mask their faces.