Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Rewriting History: the people's viewpoint

A people's perspective on history
Howard Zinn was a historian (1922-2010) whose book written in 1980 A People's History of the United States became an instant success and one of the more influential accounts of this country's past. The reason for this phenomenal success ( the book has sold more that two million copies!) is Zinn's different approach, which completely demystifies the official version most students were taught at school. Instead, Zinn chooses to write its book from 'the other side', giving voice to those people whose fate was ignored by those mainstream books.
Its relevance and interest was such that a comic version was imagined and adapted  a few years ago (2008) by political cartoonist Mike Konopackin and senior lecturer Paul Buhle. This is great news for those who find the lengthy original book a bit too much and prefer the more dynamic and visual- albeit less academic- language of comics.
The comic sets off with that eventful  morning in New York on 11 September and the subsequent speecht made by George Bush, full of hatred and vengeance, announcing immediate retaliation. Zinn's answer to that is: they have learned nothing from the twentieth century's events.
After this reflection, the book delves into those events that have shaped the history of the United States but, as mentioned before, not as you know it. Here, you will learn how the white supremacists annihilated the Native Americans; you will learn about the dirty strategies and diplomacy used in Cuba and the Philippines; you will come across familiar names such as Rockefeller, Morgan etc.. early capitalists who amassed vast fortunes on the back of the exploited and humiliated working classes.
Thus, the book goes on to depict the portrait of a nation meddling in any affair that may be beneficial for U.S. interests leaving behind an atrocious trace of massacres and impunity.
Judging by the recent revelations in the form of espionage, WikiLeaks, Guantanamo etc...this nation may be still a long way from learning the lessons Howard Zinn was hoping for: the cycle of stupidity may still continue for a while.
In the meantime, reading this book is a good way of gaining a better understanding of the Empire. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Femen: the topless revolution

Breasts Feed Revolution

The protest movement that started back in 2008 in Kiev, Ukraine, under the name of FEMEN, has become one of the most recognisable brands worldwide.
One thing is clear about this group of young women activists: they pull no punches when it comes to make themselves heard.
Thanks to their trademark approach, which mainly involves organising topless protests against religious institutions, world leaders, international institutions (eg. FIFA), embassies and other targets, FEMEN have also alienated many people, not only from the (predictably) more conservative sectors of society but also from more supposedly liberal and progressive people who dismiss these tactics as counterproductive and even as 'racist colonial feminism'. Feminist groups and Muslim women, among others, have been very critical of FEMEN's strategies.
Nudity, it would appear, still makes people uncomfortable; women's nudity even more so.
Facebook had recently had its moment of glory (again!) when it decided to block FEMEN's account after accusing the activist group of 'promoting pornography and prostitution', something that smacks of double standards.
Either Facebook can't cope with the sight of women shouting and exposing the hypocrisy of a fundamentally corrupted moral system or- perhaps more likely- they find FEMEN's message hard to swallow (perhaps bowing to the pressure coming from high above?).
But they continue-unfazed- their mission, caring very little about what the breast-phobics have to say and if there is something I admire about them is their determination and courage. Their ability to expose the powerful (men) who allow themselves to preach morality is outstanding and remarkable.
You may or may not agree with their ways of protest but if there is something clear about the emergence of FEMEN is that they have brought back to the table feminism and what does being a feminist mean in the 21st century. And just for that, I think, they must be heard and respected.