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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Threave Castle  Posted by Picasa

Threave Castle 2

Got a basic digital camera and took it for a walk last week - had three whole 'non-carer' days/ respite break.
Will get the hang of it soon and also work out to to text and images together. Meantime see pic of Threave castle below built 1370 for Archibald the Grim.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Make Poverty History : Kill the Poor

Make Poverty History : Kill the Poor

Kill Kill Kill Kill Kill the Poor

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now we have the neutron bomb
Its nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in a flash of light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
ll systems go to kill the poor tonite
Gonna ....
Kill kill kill kill kill the poor..tonite

Trouble with vinyl is it scratches so jumping through the song even faster than the Dead Kennedys can play it... but would it have been fun if they had been there for Live 8 and played it...

Writing in the Guardian toady,
ageing anarcho-goth punk George Monbiot (ex-member of Dirt according to unreliable sources) draws attention to the US African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Corporate Council on Africa- a lobby group made up of Halliburton, Coca Cola, Exxon Mobil, Starbucks...etc.
We Brits have our own version called Business Action for Africa, chaired by the head of Anglo -American with De Beers, Shell and. their kin on board... do I need to go on?

"Get the picture?"
"Yes we see"

The Scramble for Africa continues . Heart of Darkness replayed via Apocalypse Now as Groundhog Day. "The horror, the horror." "Mistah Kurtz, he dead" .

Fired off a Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir,
I agree with the broad thrust of George Monbiot's argument (Guardian July 5) that, via the Corporate Council on Africa and the Business Action for Africa groups, the G8 'has given a new East India Company' a mandate to govern Africa. However, I suggest that rather than the East India Company, a more direct analogy would be with the Royal African Company. This was established by Charles II in 1672 and given a monopoly over the Anglo-African slave trade.

But to capture the true 'horror' of what is being advocated, the Societe Anonyme Belge pour le Commerce du Haute-Congo must be evoked. This was the company established by King Leopold of Belgium as a moral crusade; "To open up to civilization the only part of our globe where it has yet to penetrate, to pierce the darkness which envelopes whole populations, it is a crusade worthy of this century of progress" and for which Joseph Conrad journeyed up the Congo in May 1890. Conrad's experiences on that journey inspired his novel 'Heart of Darkness'. Conrad's narrative takes place on a boat moored on the Thames.

"The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky- seemed to lead into the hreat of an immense darkness.!

Make poverty history? A noble cause, but let us not forget Mr. Kurtz postscript to "The Suppression of Savage Customs": Exterminate all the brutes!

yours sincerely

To quote Monbiot again

From now own, the G8 would like us to believe these companies [ see above] will be Africa's best friends. In the name of making poverty history, the G8 has given a new multi-headed East India Company [more appropriately, a new Royal African Company - founded in 1672 and which took over the 'slavery monopoly' from the Company of Royal Adventurers to Africa previously established in 1663] a mandate to govern the continent.

Without a critique of power , our campaign, so marvellously and disastrously inclusive , will merely enhance this effort. Debt, unfair terms of trade and poverty are not causes of Africa's problems, but symptoms. The cause is power: the ability of the G8 nations and their corporations to ruin other people's lives.

Other people's lives? That is pissing in the wind. So long as 'critiques of power' are distanced by such statements, nothing will ever change. So long as 'power' is conceived as ruining other people's lives, why should 'we' give a damn? Indeed across a whole range of 'power' problems it is like asking "Would you rather have a power crazed madman hit you over the head with a big stick or hit someone else?"

"Have him hit the other guy" is pretty much the rational individual response.

Holiday in Cambodia- more Dead Kennedys
What you need my dear... is a Holiday in Cambodia, where people dress in black
..you'll worker harder, with a gun at your back for a bowl of rice a day
slave for soldiers till you starve then your head is skewered on a stake
Now you can go to where the people are one
Now you can go to where they get things done
What you need my son, is a Holiday in Cambodia...

Have you seen the photos? The great anarchist riot in Edinburgh? Throwing roses dug up from Princes' Street gardens at the police? What a wonderfully acute critique of power. Pol Pot plants.

Africa. Slavery. Some starting points
1. Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery: James Walvin : Fontana : 1993
2. The Black Holocaust for Beginners : S.E. Anderson; Writers and Readers : 1995
3. The Making of New World Slavery : Robin Blackburn : Verso : 1997

Make Poverty History : Impoverishing History
The first European (by Portugal between 1470 and 1480) slave stations were established in Africa over 500 years ago. As Robin Blackburn explains, what drove African slavery in its first phase was the working to death and death by diseases of the indigenous population of south America by the Spanish. The second phase began in the 17th century with the French and British fighting to exploit the potential of the West Indies and parts of north America (Virginia, and Louisiana) as sugar, tobacco and cotton producing areas. Neither indigenous natives nor semi-slave white labourers were able to be worked as long and hard as Africans. Additionally, there seemed to be an endless supply of African slaves of whom millions made the 'Middle Passage' crammed into the holds of slave ships. Millions died in Africa, on the slave ships and on the slave plantations, but ten million survived to be worked to death in the creation of unimaginable wealth for the slave owners. This wealth in turn stimulated the economies of Europe and revolutionised them. Britain particular benefited. Take cotton. The growth of the cotton industry drove the industrial revolution. It created a demand for steam engines, for steam ships and steam railways like the Liverpool to Manchester railway of 1830.

The construction of the Liverpool to Manchester railway is usually read as an engineering/ industrial revolution story, but its creation was driven by economic interests. The 'old' canal network which linked the cotton factories of Manchester with the port of Liverpool simply could not cope with the huge growth in the import of slave produced cotton from the USA and the export of cotton cloth to India - where the British had forcibly suppressed the native and superior cotton industry. So the railway was built to increase efficiency - speeding and cheapening the flow of cotton and the coal used to power the cotton factories.

Life expectancy in Manchester in the 1840ies was 26 years... but life as a wage slave in a cotton factory was still better than that of a cotton plantation slave.

But not by much. In Scotland, miners were legally 'serfs' (slaves) up until 1799. They had to wear iron collars wih the mine owners name engraved on them. Mining was a dangerous and unpleasant activity. It was also a family affair. The dads would be on the coal face, hacking away with picks, the mums would then have to carry the coal up to the surface and kids would have the great job of sitting in the pitch dark for 12 hour working days opening and closing doors in the bowels of the earth. This was actually an important job. Explosive gases built up in the mines and the doors were part of a primitive ventilation system without which the whole family might die in a huge explosion.

A critique of power?

I wonder if George Monbiot has read Debord or Foucault, to name just two critics of power? Or even Edward Said, whom I have been quoting so often recently? To make poverty history you must have a pretty strong grasp of history and of the ways in which power does not just create poverty, but depends upon our willingness to embrace our own impoverishment and call it liberty.

"Make the rich history" might be a more realistic slogan - so long as we remember that we are the rich. That the wealth which was created by African slaves stimulated and created the 'wealth' of the modern world. It built the town I live in. [Founded in 1791 by William Douglas who made his fortune through 'trade' with slave plantations in Virginia and the West Indies]

In the words of William Burroughs "Pay it all back, every bit that you have stolen. Pay it all back".

But how? And what would be the consequences?

Last year a midwife from Zimbabwe was over here on a training placement. She sat in on a review of my disabled son's respite care placement. She did not say anything directly, but was clearly puzzled. So much time, energy, effort and money going into the care of a child with such severe disabilities. I got the impression she felt this was a 'luxury' few African or even most other countries in the world could support. That for her, survival on minimal resources was the main focus of medical/ social care.

Can't really go beyond this sobering reality. So this ends with no conclusion.