“No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.” – Terry Pratchett
Osama bin Laden, perhaps the world’s most hated man, is dead. There are few who would mourn him. Republican politician and Fox News talking head Mike Huckabee declared “welcome to hell, bin Laden.” Outside the White House and at Ground Zero last night, crowds of Americans celebrated the demise of their enemy, chanting “U.S.A, U.S.A.” like they had won a sporting match. And perhaps they had; for those watching from the safety of their couches, the War on Terror could have appeared as just another sporting event, a decade-long tournament spanning the globe. America versus Al Qaeda. Or perhaps it was that great American movie genre they had been watching, the Western. The bad guy had been vanquished, justice had been served. Roll credits.
For the two weeks following the September 11 attacks, the U.S response to terror was codenamed “Operation Infinite Justice.” Though it was quickly changed to “Operation Enduring Freedom” in response to Muslim objections (“infinite justice” is reserved for God), the phrase has lingered, haunting the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 8 years ago, President Bush stood upon an aircraft carrier and declared “mission accomplished,” but it was not. Last night in his speech, President Obama repeatedly iterated that the operation to kill bin Laden was an action to “bring him to justice.” Justice. Infinite justice.
Susan Stryker, Transgender History, Seal Press, 2008.
Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, eds. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Seal Press, 2010.
The feminist press Seal has carved out a distinctive niche for itself in its line of transgender authored books, still often something of a rarity in today’s publishing world. Two recent books from Seal demonstrate the vitality of transsexual, transgender and genderqueer writings in the present day, as well as some of the ongoing political tensions between various groups in the transgender umbrella
Susan Stryker’s Transgender History is, as the name suggests, is a history of transgender people and politics of the last hundred 150 years, primarily in the United States. Pegged as an introductory guide, this entry in Seal’s Seal Studies series is a readable and accessible primer on trans identities and politics. Historian Stryker is an expert in the field of transgender studies, having edited and published numerous works, most notably The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge 2006). Though it covers some of the same ground as Joanne Meyorowitz’s How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality In The United States, Transgender History carves out a distinct niche in its focus on the many forms of activism that trans people have engaged in over the last century.
I was talking to someone yesterday, a state government worker somewhere in the United States (I’ll be vague for confidentiality’s sake), and she mentioned that prisoners had recently taken over the cleaning duties at her office. A sheriff had come in, warning the department sternly of the dangers of interacting the prisoners or of leaving personal equipment around at their desk. If they’re so dangerous, my friend wondered, why have them doing the jobs in the first place?
Turns out, it’s a growing trend. The New York Times today reports that with deficit hawks attacking state budgets left right and centre, many states are rapidly expanding their penal workforces into new industries.
This year, revolution is in the air. It is on the streets of Tunis and Cairo, in Tripoli, Athens and Madison. It is in hearts and minds, on the airwaves and TV channels, on the page, online and on protest signs. And it is on car stereos, CD players, mobile phones and I-Pods.
With so much change going on in the world lately, I decided to ask some of our writers to provide a soundtrack to revolution, protest and social change. From classic soul to riot grrl punk, each writer responded with a unique take on the idea of protest music. I suggest you hunt these songs down, crank the volume up, and get moving.
After spending much of the last year working as Global Comment’s music reviewer, I had an oddly discomforting experience of the ephemerality of digital media over the New Year. My partner and I had headed out in the late morning of December 31st, visiting a bookstore to redeem some Christmas vouchers and then on to lunch at the Mexican restaurant we had visited on our first date (I had embarrassed myself by pronouncing the Ls in “quesadilla,” thus dooming myself to immortal mockery).
When we arrived home, our apartment had been broken into. Our laptop had been stolen, along with jewellery, mp3 player and, bizarrely, toilet paper. It was at that moment that I discovered how much of my life I had been keeping on the laptop – most of a draft of a book I’d been working on, various academic articles, bookmarks of interesting websites, and last but by no means least, an astonishing amount of mp3s that I’d accumulated over the last couple years. Oddly enough, however, our small CD player and booklet of CDs was left untouched.
Last weekend, the world stood still as “Breaking News,” the first of a rumoured 250 unreleased Michael Jackson songs was unleashed on the internet. “Breaking News” was supposed to be the first single from the posthumous album Michael, but just as quickly as it had appeared it disappeared in a cloud of controversy, replaced by a duet with Akon (always words to strike fear into the heart of the most gungho pop fan).
“Breaking News” sounds like the Platonic ideal of late period MJ, a confused mess of paranoid musings about his antagonistic relationship with the media. The song begins with snippets of news broadcasts talking about the king of Pop (just as History’s “Tabloid Junkie” did), before a hard rnb beat kicks in. The verse features a heavily processed Jackson speaking about himself in the third person—“everyone wanting a piece of Michael Jackson/reporters stalking the moves of Michael Jackson—while in the chorus, he muses, “why is it strange that I would fall in love/who is that boogeyman you’re thinking of?” Continue reading →
The Russian writer Count Leo Tolstoy famously began his novel/brick Anna Karenina with the observation that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This made for a very clever and pithy start to a book about an unfaithful woman and generalised aristocratic misery, but as aphorisms go it’s exactly wrong. Unhappy couples are amazingly, tediously, predictable. Unhappy couples always fight over the same things – lack of money, lack of intimacy and communication, lack of sex, infidelity (i.e. too much sex, or at least too much sex with the wrong person or persons).
Conservatives would have you believe that the culprit is The Gays. Gay marriage is, after all, currently destroying the institution of marriage in ten countries, four American states and Mexico City. And sure, our editor Sarah Jaffe might point to capitalism as part of the reason why the divorce rate’s so high, since so many of us are so badly paid at our jobs that we don’t have the time or energy to make our relationships strong over long periods of time. But I have a much better culprit: television. Continue reading →
In my last piece about music for Global Comment, I bemoaned the state of contemporary rnb and hiphop, which has few bright spots as far as I’m concerned—a malaise I should hasten to add it shares with most pop, indie and non-dubstep electronic music (dubstep is peeking its head into the overground with Magnetic Man, which gives me some hope). It’s like fast food – music’s everywhere, but the choices all make you feel slightly queasy and leave you hungry an hour later.
What I did mention was the one great exception in contemporary rnb/soul/hiphop – the inimitable Janelle Monáe. After a buzz building EP in 2007 called Metropolis Suite I, Monáe’s debut album The ArchAndroid Suites II and III has been gathering an ever-growing following since its release in May this year. In this age of instant gratification and quickly forgotten hype magnets, Monáe appears to be the real deal – a genuine artist, capable of stunning artistic invention and popular appeal. Continue reading →
So after seventeen days of chaos into which Australia degenerated into a Mad Max style apocalyptic hell-world, finally we have a government. Sadly, unfortunately, it is a Communist “rainbow coalition” between the centre-Left Labor, the Greens and three independents. You can hear it, can’t you? The march of soldiers through Circular Quay in Sydney, Federation Square in Melbourne, the raising of statues of Lenin on Perth’s Murray Street mall?
Oh, you can’t? Then clearly you haven’t been reading the hysterical over-reactions of the Australian media’s response to the election, the hung parliament and its highly predictable horsetrading aftermath. Taking its cue from the not-bitter-at-all Liberal-National coalition opposition, Australia’s media appears to have dropped their collective Cornetto in the sand over the mere prospect of a slightly progressive, negotiated accountable government. Continue reading →
Thursday afternoon, for a brief second, it seemed like there was to be yet another disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Five months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest oil spill in the history of the US, there was another accident on an oil rig. A Mariner Energy platform 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana had an explosion, sending 13 workers into the ocean and causing one to be injured. Luckily, the platform’s seven wells had been shut down shortly before the fire for maintenance, so no open well was leaked into the Gulf. Even with reports circulating of a mile-long oil slick around the platform, in a post-Deepwater Horizon context there is a distinct feeling of catastrophe averted.
Still, the incident has raised serious questions about the safety procedures of the oil industry in the Gulf. Think Progress reports that Mariner Energy has been fined twice this year already, totaling $55,000, and a further $30,000 back in 2007. Mariner’s new owner has been cited for $1.74 million in fines since 1998, including a $435,000 fine this year for removing a piece of a sump system which “could not automatically maintain oil at a level sufficient to prevent discharge into the Gulf of Mexico.” Continue reading →