Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist specializing in politics and society, spoke at Moravian College on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. Hedges is the seventh Peace and Justice Scholar in Residence at Moravian College. His talk was drawn from his most recent book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

James Scott: The Art of Not Being Governed

The author of several books including Seeing Like a State, Professor Scott’s research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. We talk with Professor Scott about his newest book, The Art of Not Being Governed. It is the first-ever examination of the volumes of literature on state-making that evaluates why people would deliberately remain stateless.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

I am reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. It is not only the best book in the space exploration genre, it is one of the best book’s I’ve read generally. On the nature of dreams, determination, wonder, and commitment, there are some wonderful insights. Despite his extraordinary achievements in space, Hadfield remains down to earth. He has wit, a wonderful sense of humor, and a real knack for telling stories. He also delivers his insights on life without sounding didactic. I’m only a quarter of a way in and so far it’s been a pleasure. Check it out: you’ll enjoy it.

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Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask

The documentary film, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask, explores the life and work of the psychoanalytic theorist and activist Frantz Fanon who was born in Martinique, educated in Paris and worked in Algeria. Examines Fanon’s theories of identity and race, and traces his involvement in the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria and throughout the world.

The Salam School

DSCI0221This was published at the National.

Syria is my father’s country, where I spent an important part of my young adulthood, where my son was born. Living there was inspiration for my first novel (though it’s set mainly in London). In fact, I fell in love with the country – with its enormous cultural and historical heritage, its climatic extremes, and its warm and endlessly diverse people. Of course there were moments – for example, visiting a broken man who’d been released after 22 years imprisonment for a ‘political offense’ – when I felt like getting the next plane out. And before too long I did move on, because a stagnant dictatorship was no place to build a future.

Then in 2011 the revolution erupted. This instant of hope was followed by a counter-revolutionary repression of unprecedented ferocity. How to respond? For a long time I wrote and spoke to anyone who would listen on one theme: the necessity of funding and arming the Free Army – civilian volunteers and defectors from Bashaar al-Assad’s military. Nobody did arm them, not seriously, and as a result the Free Army lost influence and Islamist factions filled the gap. Assad’s calculated manipulation of sectarian fears and hatreds produced a Sunni backlash. Al-Qa’ida franchises set up emirates near the Turkish border, and the West increasingly understood the Syrian drama not as a battle for freedom, but as a security issue. In illustration of this fact, I was stopped at Edinburgh airport as I started my most recent trip to the Turkish-Syrian border, in December, and questioned under the UK’s Terrorism Act. “Which side do you support?” they asked me. I explained there are many sides now, but the question seemed to be either/or: either the regime or the jihad – and support for the (genocidal) regime was the answer which ticked the ‘no further threat’ box.

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No Revolution is Perfect

Palestinian Youth Perspectives on Syria, Palestine and a Liberated Arab Region

by Loubna Qatami

                In December of 2010, Palestinian youth of the world watched anxiously, and participated in, the monumental dawn of the Arab revolutions. Many Palestinian young people, despite our inclination to be suspect of any emerging forces and rapid power shifts occurring, instinctively supported the political earthquake as the means of rupturing decade’s long neo-colonial structures. We joined our brothers and sisters in Tunisia, in Egypt and across the Arab world, in some cases symbolically and other cases literally, in the fight against their repressive regimes.  Palestinians are a transnational people, deeply immersed in the disadvantages of being placeless and refugees. We are subject to the repression of those regimes not only by living under them but by their corroboration with the Zionist entity consequentially resulting in our people’s long exile and occupation. Support for the revolutions means standing with our brothers and sisters across the Arab world who suffer from the same systems from which we suffer, dictatorships structurally aligned with Zionism working to stifle movements of dissent as a liberatory catalyst in our region.

December 2010 began a new era in which the face of existing power structures was obliterated. Yet, to some degree, a remaking of our part of the world became a grab for power to whoever has the most force and swiftness. In some cases, quick institutionalization through processes of Western-adopted “democracy” bolstered opposition entities into a position of “power” with limited opportunities to change realities on the ground. Rather, opposition entities were obliged to inherit the former regimes. Neo-liberalism rendered the new governments disadvantaged in their ability to yield real change on the ground for lack of economic autonomy, stability and resources. A turn to Western imperialist allies thus played a critical role in appropriating the aspirations of the masses which had deposed the former dictatorships. Still, the emerging new leaderships cannot be absolved of the partnerships they are choosing which contradict the aspirations of the people and concede on the political principles which had ultimately bolstered their position of power in the first place.

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