Human-ities · Social/Politics

Ignorant Goodwill

Since gender equality, democracy and freedoms of expression were used duplicitously as ruses for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, it has become fashionable to suspect these very principles as permanent neo-colonial conspiracies against all Muslims.

Despite objections to the orientalist project of ‘saving brown women from brown men’, a new wave of post-9/11 ‘corrective’ politics ironically continues to deploy the rescue motif itself. This time, it seeks to defend Muslim women from universal, rights-based values, laws or freedoms and so it rationalises anti-women practices in Muslim communities. The reasoning is that liberal (western) freedoms must be replaced with ‘Islamic rights’ based on ‘Muslim autonomy’. After such reinvention, there must be global concessions across international legal and social policies in order to accommodate this exceptionalism.

In the post-9/11 period, conservatives in the west view Muslim women’s freedom exclusively through the act of unveiling, while ‘anti-imperialists’ fetishise it as a tool of passive revolution against racism, imperialism and Islamophobia. Neither wishes to discuss discrimination or material rights beyond wardrobe politics.

Excerpt from text written by Afiya Shehrbano. Continue HERE and THERE

Human-ities · Social/Politics · Theory

Work, Learning and Freedom

In this often personal interview, renowned linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky outlines a libertarian perspective on work and education, arguing that freedom is the root of creativity and fulfilment.

The question I would like to ask is what is really wanted work? Maybe we could start with your personal life and your double career in linguistics and political activism? Do you like that kind of work?

If I had the time I would spend far more time doing work on language, philosophy, cognitive science, topics that are intellectually very interesting. But a large part of my life is given to one or another form of political activity: reading, writing, organising, activism and so on. Which is worth doing, it’s necessary but it’s not really intellectually challenging. Regarding human affairs we either understand nothing, or it’s pretty superficial. It’s hard work to get the data and put it all together but it’s not terribly challenging intellectually. But I do it because it’s necessary. The kind of work that should be the main part of life is the kind of work you would want to do if you weren’t being paid for it. It’s work that comes out of your own internal needs, interests and concerns.

Excerpt from an interview between Noam Chomsky and Michael Kasenbacher, New Left Project. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Social/Politics · Vital-Edible-Health

Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” List/Portrait

No. 1: AUNG SAN SUU KYI, THEIN SEIN – For showing that change can happen anywhere, even in one of the world’s most repressive states. Member of parliament, president | Burma

In 2012, the hopes for the Arab Spring began fading into cynicism as the world watched Syria descend into civil war, while the region’s nascent democracies struggled with their newfound freedom. But, meanwhile, one of the most remarkable and unexpected political reversals of our time has unfolded on the other side of the globe: Burma, long among the world’s most repressive dictatorships, began to reform under the leadership of two very unlikely allies.

For nearly 20 years, dissident Aung San Suu Kyi was sealed under house arrest by Burma’s paranoid military junta, which had drawn an iron curtain over the country since 1962. Now she’s a duly elected member of the country’s parliament — and it’s partly thanks to reformist President Thein Sein, a former general often described as an awkward, bookish bureaucrat. To the astonishment of many, Thein Sein began loosening restrictions on free speech and opening the economy after coming to power in 2011. This year, as the United States restored diplomatic ties with Burma (which the junta renamed Myanmar in 1989) and eased travel and economic sanctions, his government curbed censorship of the media and freed hundreds of political prisoners.

Text and Image via Foreign Policy. Continue List HERE

Education · Human-ities · Performativity

Freedom to Learn: The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning.

The Baining—one of the indigenous cultural groups of Papua New Guinea—have the reputation, at least among some researchers, of being the dullest culture on earth. Early in his career, in the 1920s, the famous British anthropologist Gregory Bateson spent 14 months among them, until he finally left in frustration. He called them “unstudiable,” because of their reluctance to say anything interesting about their lives and their failure to exhibit much activity beyond the mundane routines of daily work, and he later wrote that they lived “a drab and colorless existence.” Forty years later, Jeremy Pool, a graduate student in anthropology, spent more than a year living among them in the attempt to develop a doctoral dissertation. He too found almost nothing interesting to say about the Baining, and the experience caused him to leave anthropology and go into computer science. Finally, however, anthropologist Jane Fajans, now at Cornell University, figured out a way to study them.

Excerpt from a text written by Peter Gray, Psychology Today. Continue HERE
Image via

Human-ities · Performativity · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Theory

Forum: The Port Huron Statement at 50

In 1962, an undergraduate at the University of Michigan named Tom Hayden drafted a document that would launch a decade of student protest and mass action for a more democratic society.

Five decades later, we assess its impact and enduring legacy. — Boston Review

Tom Hayden
The Port Huron Statement’s core message is timeless but not dogmatic: we all need participatory democracy.
APRIL 10

Kim Phillips-Fein
The economic inequalities of our own day were anticipated even at the height of postwar affluence.
APRIL 11

Bill Ayers
The ’60s remain a prelude to the necessary fundamental changes to come.
APRIL 11

Angus Johnston
Advances in student power have shaped the course of American higher education and the nation.
APRIL 11

Eric Mann
Like the signatories of the Port Huron Statement, the Occupiers need to expand beyond the narrower interests of their original members.
APRIL 12

Kirkpatrick Sale

The Statement was nothing less than a proto-ideology for a New Left.
APRIL 12

Danielle Allen

We cannot be free without being equal.
APRIL 12

Jennifer Hochschild

On the left we see a vacuum where traditional class-oriented populism used to be.
APRIL 13

Trevor Stutz
Only moral clarity will transform alienation and apathy into action.
APRIL 13

Bernardine Dohrn
The Statement was a clarion call for people to take control of key social institutions and of their own lives.
APRIL 13

Via Boston Review

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

Islam and the West Through the Eyes of Two Women

Very few of the heroes and villains made famous in the wars of the past decade are women. Of the scant exceptions, two of the most fascinating are the subjects of Deborah Scroggins’s thoughtful double biography, “Wanted Women.”

One is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born thinker and neoconservative darling; the other is Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who, in 2010, was sentenced to 86 years in prison for her assault on American personnel in Afghanistan. She is known as Al Qaeda’s highest-ranking female associate.

The popular imagination has cast Hirsi Ali as a firebrand, clad in a satin evening gown and flanked by bodyguards as she denounces Islam. The diminutive Siddiqui is a firebrand of a different sort. She wears a burqa and totes vials of chemical weapons in her purse while denouncing the West. Yet the issue of who these self-made women actually are — and who they aren’t — remains deeply contested.

In 1992, Hirsi Ali fled from Africa to the Netherlands, where she won a bid for asylum and Dutch citizenship. She was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003. Thanks to her speeches, articles and participation in a short film called “Submission,” which depicted verses of the Koran on a woman’s naked body, as well as to her two successful autobiographies, “Infidel” and “Nomad,” she has been embraced both by many feminists and many on the American right. She argues that “Islam is backward,” and that its values must be stamped out before they overwhelm the West. Her most vociferous supporters — including her husband, the historian Niall Ferguson — consider her to be one of the staunchest defenders of freedom in our time. The late Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “The three most beautiful words in the emerging language of secular resistance to tyranny are Ayaan Hirsi Ali.” Her critics, however, claim that her views are simplistic and, more harshly, that she is an opportunist.

Siddiqui is similarly polarizing. She traveled from her home in Karachi to the United States in 1989 to pursue her education, which she did at M.I.T. and Brandeis University. She eventually married Amjad Khan, a doctor from Karachi, bore him three children and completed the requirements for her master’s degree and Ph.D. in neuroscience in less than four years. At the same time she was embracing the most millenarian principles of jihad. In 2002, after the F.B.I. had begun investigating her for links to Al Qaeda, she returned to Pakistan and soon disappeared, only to be spotted in Ghazni, Afghanistan, along with her 12-year-old son in 2008. Maps, toxic chemicals and diagrams for making bombs were found in her possession, and after a tussle with American forces during which she was shot in the stomach, she was taken into custody. Her defenders — including her family and many Pakistanis — believe she is a devout mother and martyred hero sentenced to American prison because she is a Muslim. The United States government contends she is a terrorist.

In “Wanted Women,” Scroggins traces the lives of Hirsi Ali and Siddiqui from their earliest childhoods down to the present. Hirsi Ali continues to live in the United States; Siddiqui now resides in Fort Worth, Tex., where she is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Carswell and receiving psychiatric treatment.

Written by Eliza Griswold, NYT. Continue HERE

Illustration above by Cristiana Couciero. Photograph of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (top) by Serge Ligtenberg/Associated Press. Photograph of Aafia Siddiqui by FBI/AFP/Getty Images.

Human-ities · Social/Politics · Technology

The Folly of Internet Freedom and the Mistake of Talking About the Internet as a Human Right

In the past two years, protesters against authoritarian regimes have begun to heavily use social-networking and media services, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and cell phones, to organize, plan events, propagandize, and spread information outside the channels censored by their national governments. Those governments, grappling with this new threat to their holds on power, have responded by trying to unplug cyberspace.

Some examples: In April 2009, angry young Moldovans stormed government and Communist Party offices protesting what they suspected was a rigged election; authorities discontinued Internet service in the capital. In Iran, the regime cracked down on protesters objecting to fraudulent election outcomes in June 2009 by denying domestic access to servers and links, and by slowing down Internet service generally — although protesters and their supporters found ways around those restrictions. In Tunisia, when protests against President Zine el Abidine ben Ali escalated in December 2010, his government sought to deny Twitter services in the country and hacked the Facebook accounts of some Tunisian users in order to acquire their passwords. In Egypt, amid mass protests in Cairo and several other cities in January 2011, Hosni Mubarak’s government attempted to disconnect the Internet. But there, too, protesters found limited workarounds until the doomed regime eventually restored some services.

Authoritarians may have reason to fear cyberspace. It is widely believed that the proliferation of Internet access and other communications technologies empowers individuals and promotes democracy and the spread of liberty, usually at the expense of centralized authority. As Walter Wriston optimistically put it in his 1992 book The Twilight of Sovereignty: “As information technology brings the news of how others live and work, the pressures on any repressive government for freedom and human rights will soon grow intolerable because the world spotlight will be turned on abuses and citizens will demand their freedoms.”

Written by Eric R. Sterner, The New Atlantis. Continue HERE