Ralph Fiennes on Coriolanus

I watched Ralph Fiennes’s superb directorial debut Coriolanus last night. It is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and Fiennes does it justice with a gritty adaptation, using a documentary camera technique. Like Orson Welles’s Julius Caesar, the play is transposed to modern times while retaining the Shakespearean language. The questions of power, representation, umbilical bonds, and the conflict between liberty and security are given a contemporary relevance. The adaptation is artistically bolder than Julie Taymor’s excellent Titus, even if Taymor’s adaptation was more creative and seamless in incorporating modern motifs into an ancient, rather more fantastic story. The performances, particularly Fiennes’s and Vanessa Redgrave’s, are outstanding. The only quibble I have is Coriolanus’s strutting. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is confident of his own physical and moral superiority, he has nothing to prove. Whereas Fiennes’s Coriolanus is often stiff and affected, as if he feels the need to keep reminding others of his strength. The tattoo on the neck was just out of place. Gerard Butler is far more relaxed in his role, even if his performance is somewhat lacking in conviction. Lubna Azabal, last seen in the Canadian film Incendies, is convincing as the intense and rebellious Tamora.

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The Colossal Folly of War in Afghanistan

by Ralph Nader

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is testing so much futuristic detect and destroy weaponry that it can be called the most advanced all-seeing invasion in military history. From blanket satellite surveillance to soldiers’ infra-red vision to the remotely guided photographing, killer drones to the latest fused ground-based imagery and electronic signal intercepts, the age of robotic land, sea, and air weaponry is at hand.

U.S. and NATO soldiers and contractors greatly outnumber the Taliban, whose sandals and weapons are from the past century. Still, with the most sophisticated arsenals ever deployed, why are U.S. generals saying that less than 30,000 Taliban fighters, for almost a decade, have fought the U.S. led forces to a draw?

Perhaps one answer can be drawn from a ceremony that could be happening in various places in that tormented country. That is, a Jirga of elders awarding a young fighter the Jirga medal of honor for courage on the battlefield, which often happens to be their village or valley.

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The Right, The Left, and The Silent

Guatemala, El Salvador, and the United States all stake different positions concerning the Latin American massacres.

by John Washington 

On this past 14th of January an ex-general of the Guatemalan Army, Otto Pérez Molina, took office as the right-wing, self-proclaimed strong-arm (mano dura) President of Guatemala, promising to get tough on organized crime and drug-trafficking. The new President’s message, however, comes with baggage: Guatemalan Army’s recent and sordid history. The 36-year Civil War in the country, in which the Army committed systematic and ethnically-targeted massacres and razing, ended only fifteen years ago, in 1996. But the distaste in some for the new President comes not only from implication by association, that is, that he was simply part of an organization responsible for atrocities. Pérez himself has been openly and repeatedly accused of direct involvement in tortures and massacres. It has also been repeatedly claimed that Pérez Molina was on the CIA payroll and, according to the website, SOA Watch, that he was a graduate of the infamous School of Americas. Though Pérez claims to support “a military deactivation” in the country, how can Guatemalan citizens, especially those who suffered 36-plus years of abuse at the hands of the military, trust an ex-general who also proclaims to be willing to “use all the necessary military force” to ensure internal security? The message that Pérez sends is contradictory and, despite his dubious proclamation of “military deactivation,” undeniably militant, threatening to Calderón (President of Mexico whose drug-war crackdown has driven the country to the precipice of what some are calling a failed state) an already torn social fabric.

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SOPA: Freedom or profits?

More than 7,000 internet sites went offline on Wednesday in a mass protest against the proposed US anti-piracy laws. Guests Wayne Rash, Julian Sanchez and Andreas Manak discuss whether such laws are compatible with internet freedoms.

Decline ‘Friend’ Request: Social Media Meets 21st Century Statecraft in Latin America

by Cyril Mychalejko

A Senate report released in October 2011 urging the US government to expand the use of social media as a foreign policy tool in Latin America offers another warning for activists seduced by the idea of technology and social media as an indispensable tool for social change.

In this past year as the world witnessed uprisings from Santiago to Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, social media has been lauded as a weapon of mass mobilization. Paul Mason, a BBC correspondent, wrote in his new book published this month Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (excerpted in the Guardian) that this new communications technology was a “crucial” contributing factor to these revolutionary times. Nobel peace laureate and Burmese human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out in a lecture in June that this “communications revolution…not only enabled [Tunisians] to better organize and co-ordinate their movements, it kept the attention of the whole world firmly focused on them.”  CNN even ran an article comparing Facebook to “democracy in action”, while Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was imprisoned in Egypt for starting a Facebook page told Wolf Blitzer that the revolution in Egypt “started on Facebook” and that he wanted to “meet Mark Zuckerberg some day and thank him personally.”

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On the ‘Precision’ of Language: Why the Term ‘Genocide’ is So Wrong, or Who Can Use the Term

This essay is a response to the emerging discussions over the ‘appropriateness’ of the use of the word ‘genocide’ in the context of the Indian military occupation in Kashmir on PulseMedia and elsewhere on Facebook.

by Mohamad Junaid

[This essay is a response to the emerging discussions over the ‘appropriateness’ of the use of the word ‘genocide’ in the context of the Indian military occupation in Kashmir on PulseMedia and elsewhere on Facebook.]

Homage to Picasso's Guernica (HD 2002)
Homage to Picasso's Guernica (HD 2002)

But, which language? Which one language expresses all joyous, exhilarating, or traumatic experiences?

When Kashmiris are told to be precise in their language there are largely two positions involved: one, a sympathetic (if inadequate and self-censorious) one, which suggests that following ‘the convention’ will allow for legalistic interpretation and some form of retributive or ‘restorative’ justice. Often such a position traps itself in legal discourse, and by seeking to bottle people’s experiences into tight categories, fetishizes those categories, and in the end reduces the depth of traumatic experiences to mere data points on the grid of classification. This compliant and self-disciplining position forgets the origins of law in violence (and the inverse), and how ‘law’ serves to maintain ‘order’—which is, in other words, the systematized, legally endorsed structure of oppression. The peculiar claim to universalism (to create a universal system of law) that drives this position pays no heed to where, and for whom, these supposedly ‘universal’ categories of law are created, and what connection law has with power or ‘international’ law with the empire. Continue reading “On the ‘Precision’ of Language: Why the Term ‘Genocide’ is So Wrong, or Who Can Use the Term”