Reshaping Remembrance ~ ‘In Ferocious Anger I Bit The Hand That Controls’ – The Rise Of Afrikaans Punk Rock Music

On a night in 2006, a Cape Town’s night club, its floor littered with cigarette butts,  plays host to an Afrikaner (sub)cultural gathering. Guys with seventies’ glam rock hairstyles, wearing old school uniform-like blazers decorated with a collection of pins and buttons and teamed up with tight jeans, sneakers and loose shoelaces keep one eagerly awaiting eye on the set stage and another on the short skirted girls. Before taking to the stage, the band, Fokofpolisiekar, entices the audience with the projection of their latest music video for the acoustic version of their debut hit single released two years before and entitled ‘Hemel op die platteland’.
In tune with the melancholy sound of an acoustic guitar, the music video kicks off with the winding of an old film reel revealing nostalgic stock footage of a long gone era. Well-known images make the audience feel a sense of estrangement by means of ironic disillusionment: the sun is setting in the Cape Town suburb of Bellville. Seemingly bored, the five members of Fokofpolisiekar hang around the Afrikaans Language Monument. Against the backdrop of a blue-grey sky, the well-known image of a Dutch Reformed church tower flashes in blinding sunlight. Smiling white children play next to swimming pools in the backyards of well-to-do suburbs and on white beaches while the voice of the lead singer asks:
can you tighten my bolts for me? / can you find my marbles for me? / can you stick your idea of normal up your ass? / can you spell apathy? can someone maybe phone a god / and tell him we don’t need him anymore / can you spell apathy? (kan jy my skroewe vir my vasdraai? / kan jy my albasters vir my vind? / kan jy jou idee van normaal by jou gat opdruk? / kan jy apatie spel? kan iemand dalk ’n god bel / en vir hom sê ons het hom nie meer nodig nie / kan jy apatie spel?)

And whilst the home video footage of a family eating supper in a green acred backyard is sharply contrasted with images of broken garden chairs in an otherwise empty run-down backyard, the theme of the song resonates ironically in the chorus: ‘it’s heaven on the platteland’ (‘dis hemel op die platteland’). On the dirty floor of the night club, a young white Afrikaans guy kills his Malboro cigarette and takes a sip of his lukewarm Black Label beer, watching more video images of morally grounded suburb, school and church and relates to the angry words of the vocalist:
‘regulate me […] place me in a box and mark it safe / then send me to where all the boxes/idiots go / send me to heaven I think it’s on the platteland’  (‘reguleer my, roetineer my / plaas my in ’n boks en merk dit veilig / stuur my dan waarheen al die dose gaan / stuur my hemel toe ek dink dis in die platteland / dis hemel op die platteland’).

As the video draws to a close, the young man sees the ironic use of the partly exposed motto engraved on the path to the Language Monument: ‘This is us’.  He has never visited the Language Monument, but he agrees with what he just saw and because he feels as though he just paged through old photo albums (only to come to the disillusioned conclusion that everything has been all too burlesque) he puts his hands in the air when the band takes to the stage with the lead singer commanding:
‘Lift your hands to the burlesque […] We want the attention / of the brainless crowd / We want the famine the urgent lack of energy / We are in search of the search for something / We are empty, because we want to be’ (‘Rys jou hande vir die klug […] Ons soek die aandag / van die breinlose gehoor / Ons soek die hongersnood die dringende gebrek aan energie / Ons is op soek na die soeke na iets / Ons is leeg, want ons wil wees’. Read more

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Some Notes On Citizenship, Civil Society And Social Movements

Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937 Ills.: Ingrid Bouws

Over the past decades, notions of citizenship and civil society have come to occupy a prominent place in Latin American political discourse. All kinds of activities have been attributed to civil society, including preventing a military solution to the Chiapas conflict in 1994. We also hear a great deal about “organized civil society,” “social movements of civil society” and “global civil society,” terms that have entered everyday political discourse and become incorporated into common sense, though this does not mean that everyone understands the same message when using these terms. Quite to the contrary, incorporation into common language may well be facilitated by a lack of specificity. Such fluidity suggests, above all, that citizenship and civil society are contested categories subject to “wars of interpretation” (Slater, 1998:385). This approach to such questions implies admitting that we cannot know exactly what citizenship and civil society “are” and recognizing that they are notions forged through political discourse and practice.

There is no such thing as society, there are individual men and women. — Margaret Thatcher, 19931

In this essay, I will outline some of the pathways the notion of citizenship has taken and how it has been reconfigured over the course of time. Taking Europe and Latin America as our main references, this discussion will show that what has been considered the foundation of citizenship has been conceptualized and practiced in distinct ways at different times and in different places. It will also discern how citizenship and civil society are mutually implicated social constructs. I will argue that in a first moment, civil rights were considered the primary foundation of citizenship and of the autonomous participation of the citizen in society. However, the conflicts generated by the social structure of 19th-century capitalist society contributed to the consolidation of social rights as a new basis for citizenship. In Latin America, in contrast, the incorporation of the population followed an itinerary distinct from that of Europe, which reveals specific forms of inclusion and exclusion. Finally, societal and economic changes in recent decades have given rise to new imageries of citizenship, which often center on consumer sovereignty as its vital element, a fact that has important implications for what we call civil society. Taking the example of Brazil, I will show that such views are not uncontested, but that they are challenged by a political imagery premised on the idea that citizenship itself can be a strategy employed in the search for a more inclusive and civil society. This theme is certainly ample, and I do not pretend to examine it exhaustively, but only to offer some food for thought. As noted, I consider citizenship and civil society to be interrelated notions and thus seek to put a certain distance between my perspective and views of civil society currently in vogue, which tend to define it as a space located somewhere beyond the market and the state. Instead, I seek to highlight the ways in which the market, the state and civil society all intersect in an effort to construct something that we might call a “political economy of citizenship.”
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The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks ~ Self Portrait, ca.1948

Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. In addition, Parks was also a celebrated composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the most prominent people of his era – from politicians and artists to celebrities and athletes.

Born into poverty and segregation in Kansas in 1912, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man when he saw images of migrant workers published in a magazine. After buying a camera at a pawnshop, he taught himself how to use it and despite his lack of professional training, he found employment with the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which was then chronicling the nation’s social conditions. Parks quickly developed a style that would make him one of the most celebrated photographers of his age, allowing him to break the color line in professional photography while creating remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of racism.

Go to: http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist

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Great Lakes Of Africa ~ From Problems To Solutions

“People are the problem, People are the solution” the keynote speaker’s concluding words at the first Great Lakes of Africa Conference held in Uganda in May 2017, generated a flurry of nods and agreements. Entebbe hosted over three hundred delegates at the shores of Lake Victoria, to discuss sustainable solutions for the pressing problems of the African Great Lakes. Spanning across 11 countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia), the African Great Lakes region is large and indispensable as it provides livelihoods to millions. It was interesting to see a variety of stakeholders, including government leaders, regional and basin authorities, inter-governmental organizations, development and funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, community groups and the private sector come together to discuss challenges and solutions for this special region. Presentations made by delegates resounded the problems of pollution, over extraction of natural resources, pressure on natural resources, changes in land use and need for further research in many areas. For me, it echoed some of my thoughts on what I have observed in the Lake Chilwa Basin in southern Malawi. Lake Chilwa, although a smaller lake compared to the giants such as Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, is very important for the millions that live in its basin. And indeed, I have also seen in the Lake Chilwa Basin that people are the cause of its problems and certainly, they are the solution too.

Why people are the problem comes to light when one looks at anthropogenic causes of Lake Basin changes. They include watershed deforestation causing sedimentation in lakes, over abstraction of water for irrigation leading to lowered water levels of lakes, poor solid and sewage waste management leading to eutrophication, use of toxic chemical for agriculture in lake basins and competing land uses leading to reduced land for conservation. Several examples were presented including the case of Kenya’s Lake Turkana which is renowned as the world’s largest desert lake. Hydropower development and large-scale irrigation plantations have depleted river inflow into the lake. As a result, the lake level has already fallen two metres, and the local fishing industry has taken a toll. It was chilling to hear at the conference that this lake has been likened to “an African Aral Sea in the making”. Nearby, at Lake Victoria, which employs over 1 million people, over the years, impacts of eutrophication and climate change, are threatening its critical ecosystem services. While, Lake Tanganyika has experienced various ecological changes including lake warming and heavy pressure on various fisheries resources. Lake Malawi is also no exception, where degraded habitats, declining fish stocks and agriculture runoff into the lake all threaten livelihoods of those depending on this lake. Almost all presenters accepted that rapid population growth in the region puts tremendous pressure on the natural resources in the ecosystems. Some called for an integrated approach, where women’s needs especially that of family planning should be considered and population numbers managed. Read more

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Ahmet Şık’s Defence Statement On The Trial Of Cumhuriyet 24 July 2017

I will start with a quote from the prologue of my book “We walked parallel on these roads”, published in 2014, three years ago. The foreword of this review-research book explaining how the mafia-governing coalition between the AKP and the Gülen community is dispersed begins as follows: “The AKP and Gulen congregation, two forces that turn Turkey into political and social coexistence and continued together with the support of partisans, so-called powerhouse, sewage exploded. The two forces that built the so-called ‘New Turkey’, a Machiavellian understanding that is appropriate to apply any kind of rush to achieve it, AKP and Gulen Congregation split.

Both do not want the democratization of the system and society, they are the foci of power that seeking to conquer the state, they are trying to organize it by making their authority predominant.

These two foci, with an understanding of trying to make the commitment to the authority of the state, which they think they will be the only power to speak in the long run, have accumulated material for destroying each other while fighting common enemies on the other hand.

The closeness of the day that these materials could be used was apparent from the fact that the stench in the drainage was spreading out over for a long period of time. Threats from media columns, underhanded liquidations, occasionally leaked phone calls, and police-judicial operations based on illegality were the signs that they would be targeted at the constituents of the government after common enemies.

When they were convinced that there were no enemies to be destroyed, they were aiming at each other by holding onto the fight that the state’s owner would be. Yes, it was a mess and still it is a mess. Apparently it will be like this for a while. In this battle where ethics and religion are used, the lies that meet the needs of the parties are more prevalent than the truths. So, do not be fooled by the defenses made by them. This war is not for democracy and clean society, nor for peace or civilization as somebody claimed. They just fight for being the owner of the state.

After these lines were published, the war between the AKP and the Gülen congregation worsened. The period of a false history writing process, which started with the Ergenekon investigations in 2007, who took more share on the plundering of the state and the country by the ruling and crime partners, extended to a coup attempt. On 15th July 2016, 250 people were killed in a bloody upheaval.

There is serious doubt that this attempt, which we are forced to believe is the sole responsibility of the Gülen Community, was already known by the government. Despite the fact that over a year has passed and numerous investigations have been launched, suspicions have increased rather than decreased. The July 15 coup d’etat, which is required to remain in the dark with many signs, which led us to believe that the needed ‘Controlled Chaos’ was being yielded, was the most important milestone of the fake historiography that spanned the last 10 years.

The only truth of this fakeness which has been constructed with the words “democratization-civilization” and lies, is the people slaughtered by the coup plotters.

It is worth to ask questions about what is wanted to be left in the dark and saying “Controlled Chaos” to this situation. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is the target of the coup attempt, has spilled the beans by expressing his intention while the country was in the middle of a bloodshed, and said “This coup is a blessing from God to us”. We have seen what ‘blessing’ means and have witnessed it together and are still witnessing it. We pass through the dark and increasingly darker days, where those who voiced the truth, those who objected to the crime order, those who demanded their usurped rights, are the voices being muted and strangled.

Read more: http://www.pen-international.org/ahmet-siks-defence-statement-on-the-trial-of-cumhuriyet-24-july-2017/

 

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Zygmunt Bauman: Liquid Modernity Revisited

The Baumann Institute
Founded in 2010 in recognition of the critical sociology of Leeds’s Emeritus Professor Zygmunt Bauman, our work cuts across various disciplines including sociology, social policy, political science, heterodox economics, as well as media and cultural studies.

We aim to be a home for stimulating intellectual debate across the social sciences, arts, and humanities in order to achieve new critical and empirical perspectives on contemporary social, economic and political life.

We are heavily involved in the teaching of sociology on the BA Sociology programme and lead the MA Social and Political Thought programme, which offers the competitive Janina Bauman Prize for our best MA Dissertation each year.

To stay up to date with our latest news, research, and events, please follow us on Twitter, or check the School website for further details.

Go to: http://baumaninstitute.leeds.ac.uk

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