Whatever Happened to AIDS?

Lady Gaga

PULSE readers may not have noticed but Lady Gaga is dead. Justin Timberlake is dead. So are Alicia Keys, Elijah Wood and a host of other celebrities. Well not literally dead – ‘digital death’ is what they call it. This past Wednesday, on World AIDS Day, all of these people have seized communication with the outside world through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Some lower-caste people too have joined the invitation to commit digital suicide.) The basic aim is to raise money for Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive charity. Only after fans have donated one million dollars to the cause, will the celebrities revive their digital lives.

It’s a great bargain. For as little as $10 not only will you not have to suffer the void in your everyday life of not “knowing where they are, what they had for dinner, or what interesting things are happening in their lives”, at the same time you buy yourself into a community that saves millions of lives and “give[s] millions of real people the care, love and hope they deserve”.

Do “what you always do”, says Keys, and save a few Africans.

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Global food (in)justice

With more than one billion people around the world considered overweight, why are so many others still starving and struggling to fill their plates? And what can be done to make the global food system more equitable?

Riz Khan interviews the brilliant Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.

“Veil in the Time of War” or “Veilin’ the Time of War”

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia. Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.” Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – this essay investigates whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.

Segert's Anti-Minaret Poster

by Huma Dar

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia.  Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, theorized by Inderpal Grewal, Gayatri Spivak, Lata Mani, Leila Ahmed, Sherene Razack, Saba Mahmood, Sunera Thobani amongst others, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.”  Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – I investigate whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.  I undertake to deconstruct the ongoing debates that obsessively revolve around the veil or the sexuality that is variously professed to be suppressed, annihilated, or even “discovered” beneath the veil by some liberal explorers.

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Pakistan’s ‘Oral’ Society

Public library of Hulwan, Baghdad

M. Shahid Alam

(Note: This essay was written nearly twenty years back, in April 1991. A great many changes have come to Pakistan since then, but I am afraid that the observations I had made then about ‘orality’ of Pakistani discourse still hold true. Pakistan’s best young minds do not go where their hearts and their talents lead them. Instead, overwhelmingly, they still pursue job security. Sadly, education – even for the brightest – is still mostly vocational education. With the introduction of multiple private cable channels, however, orality has entered a new age. The oral discourse, previously confined to drawing rooms and campuses, is now led by ‘talking heads’ in television studios. Is this discourse now more solidly rooted than before in the written word, in history and the social and natural sciences? I doubt it: and why should it? Pakistan’s brown Sahibs continue to drag the country deeper into dependency; they work overtime to trap Pakistanis in the most superficial consumerism, without the capital, technology and skills that support this malaise in developed Western societies. In other words, Pakistan is still caught in the disease that Jalal Al-i Ahmad had described in his book, Gharbzadagi Occidentotis: A Plague from the West.)

I first became aware of differences between ‘oral’ and ‘literate’ societies when I returned to Pakistan in 1979 – after an absence of some five years in the United States and Canada – to take up a fellowship at the Applied Economics Research Center, affiliated to the University of Karachi.

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Our Dead Culture

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges says America is gone. It’s lost to consumer culture and the cult of the self. We’re barreling towards collapse. Hedges points to Michael Jackson’s funeral, made into a maudlin form of entertainment where a celebrity attendee like Magic Johnson could plug his sponsor, A.K.A Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Hedges’ view of this world, lies and manipulation win over truth, as evidenced everywhere from Wall Street to reality television. Over time, says Hedges, corporations have morphed our consumption into a constant, nagging compulsion. One homogenous culture sold to us by large companies has stamped out our nation’s distinct regional differences, and there’s no turning back.

In this talk at Town Hall Seattle, Hedges makes his case against consumerism, celebrity culture, mainstream media and unfettered capitalism. His latest book is “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.” Elliott Bay Book Company co–sponsored his talk on July 22, 2009.

The Triumph of Spectacle

Chris Hedges on GritTV: How did such a sizeable portion of modern society develop into a post-literate, fantasy-fueled, perma-reality show?  Noted reporter Chris Hedges speaks to the wonderful Laura Flanders about his new book: The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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Dubai, jewel in Israel’s sales crown

Lev Leviev's, "Levant" diamond store at Dubai's Atlantis Hotel

Guess where you have to go to buy yourself some blood diamonds these days? Adalah NY has been drawing attention to this for some time. Where International NGOs and Western consumers have been distancing themselves from Lev Levive’s blood diamonds, the Arab ‘brethren’ of the Gulf have been siphoning their petrodollars for settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories through his Levant stores. On the Le Monde Diplomatique blog Alain Gresh writes:

With the exception of Egypt, all Arab states officially boycott Israel, blacklist Israeli companies and ban imports of Israeli products. The same countries frequently lead the voices calling for sanctions against Israel. But sometimes life gets in the way.

Just a few weeks after the world financial crisis broke, a super-luxury hotel, the Atlantis, opened its doors in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The French chatter website LePost.fr of 21 November 2008 trumpeted the headline: “2000 stars at the inauguration of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel”. It wrote:

“Dubai, Dubai, Dubai! Arab princes, flying carpets, oil, dollars… and the Atlantis Hotel! An extraordinary palace, which cost more than $1.9bn to create, celebrated its opening yesterday in high style.

“This little junket cost a trifling $38m! That’s what it took to tell the entire world about the arrival of a luxury hotel which sees itself as the planet’s most incredible palace, with its giant in-house aquarium…

“The Atlantis is at the heart of Dubai’s Palm Island, an artificial island built in the shape of a palm tree. The world’s greatest architects and designers worked on the Pharaonic project.”

Read the rest of the post here.