Israel 2012, The Question of a Nation: What Does Culture Have to Do with Politics? (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I found a message in my inbox by an Israeli, who’s a Jazz musician, who’s paying gig was canceled because of a successful BDS movement campaign to get Swedish Jazzist, Andreas Öberg, to cancel his gig in the Eilat Red Sea Jazz Festival. Usually, the extent of my response, when I get unsolicited mail from angry Israelis, is to take a screenshot and add it to my “Love Letters” albums on my Facebook profile. Call it an artistic form of exhibiting political repression, racism and sexism, if you will (but what does culture have to do with politics, I wonder…). This time, however, since we’re not talking about your typical angry Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, but someone who has lost a paying gig. I think it merits a response (even though, as I will argue below, I am actually not the address for cultural worker grievances).

You Don’t Know Me and I Don’t Know You

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Israel 2012, The Question of a Nation: What Does Culture Have to Do with Politics?

For more information on how Israel is using this face to mask its evil, go to http://www.no2brandisrael.org/

The interesting thing about Israel is that its government and registered citizens have a wonky spatial perception, which feeds off itself: In Israel, you’re not in the state, the state is in you. Due to this cyclical perception, along with the “standard” “nation branding” (a marketing lie on to itself, and that sick capitalist perception of a state- a geographic territory with obligations and responsibilities towards its respective inhabitants- as a product which is on the market for sale), known as Brand Israel, much of Israel’s propaganda is based on the blurring of the lines between the individual and the state (and army).

As a BDS activist, whose main focus is cultural boycott, I’ve come up against a very common Israeli claim (individuals, small business, and government officials) that “culture has nothing to do with politics”. Most commonly it comes in the form of a puzzled “rhetorical” question: “What does culture have to do with politics?!” As if asking this question closes the discussion, because it’s so obvious that art, music, books, films, theater and dance are a pure form of entertainment that has no intellectual, political, anthropological value. As if cultural products aren’t bought and sold as commodities and status indicators.

Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production Ltd. in the Service of the State of Israel

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Red Hot Chiling Silence

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer, Chad Smith, professing a liberal language of equality and harmony for all.

You book some tour, receive some award, get an event invitation. “They love me! They really love me!” you think. Or maybe “Woah, cool! I always wanted to go to Murmansk!” All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you start getting letters from Arizona: “Dude, we’re trying to have a picket line here, you’re seriously treading on our turf! Boycott racism!” Panicked, you call your agent: “But I just wanted to make music!” Your agent, being payed to be in contact with the corporeal world tells you how it is: “We’ll have to loose some revenue, but let’s donate this concert’s proceeds to these people’s organizations!”, better yet “let’s buy activists off with free tickets!” Without much debate, you happily pack your bags and head off in your private airplane to the Congo. After all, what do you know about politics?

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Dow’s Paralympic Sponsorship Insults the Disabled

by Saffi Ullah Ahmad

In what is a bitter irony, whilst reaping the PR benefits of association with the 2012 Paralympics, the Dow Chemical Corporation is directly responsible for wave after wave of disability in faraway lands.

Today begin London’s 2012 Paralympics, set to be opened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. For another two weeks, we will hear Lord Sebastian Coe and other LOCOG officials’ lofty statements not just about the games’ alleged spirit of inclusiveness but also about their role in the empowerment of disabled people and the challenging of misconceptions around disability. Such pomp and pageantry however, is disingenuous to its core, something recognised by many disability rights campaigners.

Dogging the games for several months now has been controversy relating to corporate sponsorship from a variety of the world’s murkiest companies. The Paralympic games allow for what The Nation’s Dave Zirin has termed ‘corporate sin washing’ more than any other athletic spectacle.

As many have noted, from McDonalds and Coca-Cola, partly responsible for obesity epidemics worldwide, to British Petroleum, notorious for off-shore drilling and funding climate change denial, the list of sponsors leaves one bewildered.

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Wimpish in America

by William A. Cook

Last month, Stuart Jeffries writing in the Guardian, observed, “Capitalism is in crisis across the globe – but what on earth is the alternative?” In 1840, Orestes Brownson in his essay “The Laboring Classes,” asked the same question, “…what shall government do? … Its first doing must be an undoing. … We want first the legislation which shall free the government, whether State of Federal, from the control of the Banks. … a banking system like ours, if sustained, necessarily and inevitably becomes the real and efficient government of the country.” How ironic that 172 years ago, only 49 years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, Brownson notes, “… at the end of ten years (of) constant hostility, (we know) all too well the power of the Banks, and their fatal influence on the political action of the community.” He declares further that “uncompromising hostility” against the banking system should be the motto of every working man, and of “every friend of humanity.”

Brownson’s “Laboring Classes” is a call to action, virtually at the inception of the country, to put the control of the government back in the hands of the people. “The system must be destroyed….The system is at war with the rights and interest of labor, and it must go.” How ironic Jeffries’ observation of the current state of affairs when contrasted to that of Brownson.

“Today, 164 years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support. Overworked, underpaid workers ostensibly liberated by the largest socialist revolution in history (China’s) are driven to the brink of suicide to keep those in the west playing with their iPads. Chinese money bankrolls an otherwise bankrupt America.”

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The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited

George Orwell’s ‘The Road To Wigan Pier‘ was a classic expose of poverty in 1930s Britain. 75 years later, journalistStephen Armstrong travelled the same route and encountered levels of inequality and social injustice that Orwell would have recognised.

In a special event at the RSA, Stephen Armstrong is joined in conversation by Danny Dorling, professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield, to discuss why inequality persists in the UK today and where we might find grounds for optimism about the future.

Below is the full audio recording of the talk: