Sunday, January 28, 2018
A Tale Of Two Islands, by Vijay Prashad
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive, deadly, and extremely destructive season, featuring 17 named storms, ranking alongside 1936 as the fifth-most active season since records began in 1851. The season also featured both the highest total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) and the highest number of major hurricanes since 2005. All ten of the season's hurricanes occurred in a row, the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes in the satellite era, and tied for the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes ever observed in the Atlantic basin since records began in 1851.
But the point of this post is to contrast the approaches of two islands to the threats, and it's done effectively by Vijay Prashad. I'll let him "speak":
one island, a poor socialist state with infrastructure in grave need of modernisation, has slowly emerged out of the chaos caused by a hurricane’s wrath, while the other, a territory of the richest country in the world, cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
You should read the entire article for yourself. Here is just a piece:
While Cuban journalists and brigades fanned Cuba to provide information to the authorities about destruction and reconstruction, Puerto Rico went dark. Communications collapsed and information about the damage was not easily available. While in Cuba the authorities tried to get exact information of the damage done to each home, in Puerto Rico the numbers thrown about were the price tag for recovery—between $40 billion and $85 billion is the estimated insurance claims that will likely be triggered by the devastation. It says a great deal about the different approaches to disaster: one makes sure each person is tended to and the other worries about the cost of the recovery.
Oh, and a footnote related to Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
The extraordinary Ethiopian philosopher Zär’a Yaqob
Not only because of the advanced thoughts of Zar'a Yaqob, which must be attributed to his personal insight and no direct influence of a school or stream, his treatise is important for historical research. Especially in Hegel's philosophy of history, which ascribes no philosophical ambitions to Sub-Saharan Africa, Zar'a Yaqob offers a perfect counterexample, since he lived about 200 years before Hegel. Other racial theories find in him a counterexample. Wikipedia: Die freien Enzyklopädie
Casa del Libro:
Zar'a Yaqob means "Scion of Jacob" and is the name of a man who must be regarded as a significant thinker of the 17th century. He lived from 1600 to about 1693/94 u.Z. in the Ethiopian highlands. In this time of fierce religious conflict between the Catholic and Coptic churches, Zara Yaqob posed the question of truth and found in the human mind the only relevant instance of knowledge. At the request of his pupil Waldä Heywat ("son of life") he wrote his insights as a Hätäta ("essay") in the form of an autobiography. Waldä Heywat continued the book of his teacher with his own Hätäta. Zar'a Yaqob could not fall back on a rich tradition of science and philosophy in formulating his thoughts as did his contemporaries in Europe. Precisely for this reason, it is important to mention that the study of his essay by Claude Sumner results in a comparison of Zär'a Yaqob with Rene Descartes, which also shows that modern philosophy began in Africa at the same time as in Europe
Read more about this extraordinary African HERE, of which I will only highlight the following quote:
In chapter five, Yacob applies rational investigation to the different religious laws. He criticises Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Indian religions equally. For example, Yacob points out that the Creator in His wisdom has made blood flow monthly from the womb of women, in order for them to bear children. Thus, he concludes that the law of Moses, which states that menstruating women are impure, is against nature and the Creator, since it ‘impedes marriage and the entire life of a woman, and it spoils the law of mutual help, prevents the bringing up of children and destroys love’. In this way, Yacob includes the perspectives of solidarity, women and affection in his philosophical argument. And he lived up to these ideals. After Yacob left the cave, he proposed to a poor maiden named Hirut, who served a rich family. Yacob argued with her master, who did not think a servant woman was equal to an educated man, but Yacob prevailed. When Hirut gladly accepted his proposal, Yacob pointed out that she should no longer be a servant, but rather his peer, because ‘husband and wife are equal in marriage’.
Monday, May 29, 2017
What Exactly is 'Openness'?
Originally published at LinkedIn.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Nobel Lecture by Harold Pinter
Pinter's career as a playwright began with a production of The Room in 1957. His second play, The Birthday Party, closed after eight performances, but was enthusiastically reviewed by critic Harold Hobson. His early works were described by critics as "comedy of menace". Later plays such as No Man's Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978) became known as "memory plays". He appeared as an actor in productions of his own work on radio and film. He also undertook a number of roles in works by other writers. He directed nearly 50 productions for stage, theatre and screen. Pinter received over 50 awards, prizes, and other honours, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the French Légion d'honneur in 2007.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
This is How Empires Fall
I share this fear:
I fear we are moving beyond a natural skepticism regarding expert claims to the death of the ideal of expertise itself: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, teachers and students, knowers and wonderers—in other words, between those with achievement in an area and those with none. By the death of expertise, I do not mean the death of actual expert abilities, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors and lawyers and engineers and other specialists. And most sane people go straight to them if they break a bone or get arrested or need to build a bridge. But that represents a kind of reliance on experts as technicians, the use of established knowledge as an off-the-shelf convenience as desired.
The larger discussions, from what constitutes a nutritious diet to what actions will best further U.S. interests, require conversations between ordinary citizens and experts. But increasingly, citizens don’t want to have those conversations. Rather, they want to weigh in and have their opinions treated with deep respect and their preferences honored not on the strength of their arguments or on the evidence they present but based on their feelings, emotions, and whatever stray information they may have picked up here or there along the way.
This is a very bad thing. A modern society cannot function without a social division of labor. No one is an expert on everything. We prosper because we specialize, developing formal and informal mechanisms and practices that allow us to trust one another in those specializations and gain the collective benefit of our individual expertise.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Qiyan Music & Abdel Karim Ensemble
The Qiyan, (above):
From the 8th to the 13th centuries, female slaves trained in musical composition and performance, the recitation and composition of poetry, the art of embellishing their conversation with entertaining literary and historical anecdotes, the crafts of calligraphy and shadow-puppetry, as well as other art forms, were one of the most elegant and refined expressions of Islamic culture in Spain. These women (Ar. qiyān) were major contributors to, and conduits for, the transmission of the arts during the golden age of Islamic Spain (Ar. al-Andalus).
Also, not to be missed:
Abdel Karim Ensemble, (above):
Formed by professional musicians from several countries (Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Spain) and under the direction of Abdel Karim, this ensemble has the purpose of studying and popularizing Arabic classical music. Its repertory includes music from throughout the Middle East, from Turkey to Egypt, ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Abdel Karim Ensemble also performs Andalusian Arabic music, a genre that originated in Al-Andalus, Islamic medieval Spain, where it was cultivated as a poetic-musical form known as Muwashaha.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
His analysis in this particular POST includes a very cogent synopsis of what a Clinton administration policy might look like regarding Syria. As we should all know by now, there was recently a serious but perhaps futile attempt by the US and Russia to eke out a "seven days cease-fire during which humanitarian convoys would be allowed into besieged areas (in Aleppo, I assume) by both the belligerents." If anything, it was an attempt by the two principle suppliers of war machinery to this conflict to seek an alternative to the continued obliteration of the country by the belligerent parties. While we can engage in endless discussion of whether or not this was indeed a fool's errand, at least it was an attempt to begin seeking a different solution to the problem. Who knows what could have developed afterwards if it had succeeded? As we all now know, the "plan" was stillborn. There are some important indicators as to whom may have ultimately been responsible for the failure of the plan, but that isn't the most important "message" of the piece.
Elijah J M's analysis of the situation in Syria as stands is both thoughtful and well-informed, and merits being read in its entirety (everyone will undoubtedly arrive at their own conclusion as to who ultimately caused the plan to fail, but the whole truth may likely never be known, lost as often is the case in these situations amidst the "fog of war"). Nevertheless, there is one party whose actions are unequivocal, and Elijah J M makes this patently clear:
But what happened and why did the agreement failed?(sic)...
Al-Qaeda, excluded from the ceasefire deal, has no interest in seeing it working. Its forces, along with US vetted group of Ahrar al-Sham and Beit al-Maqdes attacked the Syrian forces south of Syria, at al Hader, supported by the Israeli Air Force. Twenty-one artillery positions were destroyed by the Israel Air Force hours before the attack along the Golan border.
Elijah J M's most significant attempt at a "prediction", however, is encapsulated in the title of the piece: The mistrust between Washington and Moscow portends a long war. In particular, he states:
"Hillary Clinton, if she becomes president, understands that the Kremlin is determined to protect its interests in the Levant; and that the war in Syria concerns Russia directly because it demonstrates success or failure in the Middle East. The US will do its best to see Russia and Iran drown in Syria and will not accept that the US administration has failed to reach its goal."
Considering the photos/reports of the tragic situation in Syria which the western (and particularly the US) mainstream media have chosen to highlight for some time already (as opposed, say, to those depicting the equally dire situation in other places like Yemen) we can only say (if we accept Elijah J M's eminently plausible "prediction") that such reporting is once more a reflection of the utter hypocrisy of western governments that have no intention whatsoever of seeing an end to this tragic conflict. The reports and photos of casualties in the western press are mere props in a politically motivated propaganda campaign of one-upmanship. The Syrian people be damned as long as the west can bleed the Russians dry in an ongoing proxy war which nobody can know the ultimate duration of.