Another indictment of the "International Criminal Fund"

“We are not poor but were made poor, this is your policy, oh dollar” (Mish faqir lakin ifqar, hatha nahjak ya dular). This understanding of corruption is in stark contrast to notions of corruption which depict the main problem of postcolonial states in the global South as one of corrupt individuals, rather than global economic structures that keep elites, leaders and policies which harm their populations. Framed this way, the problem is mismanagement rather than (deliberate) structures that benefit the elite at the expense of the majority."

Do you know who governs us? The damned Monetray Fund

Essential reading:
Debt, IMF, and the World Bank by Eric Toussaint and Damien Millet, 2010
"Class is everywhere, impossible to escape or even look away from, but it is still unusual for politicians or commentators to call it by name. In a class-ridden society, Americans often manage to dodge the issue."

"The remaking of class"

Warning: do not read this if you are eating or about to eat, going to bed, or going to make love.

This happened between 1952-1956, not in the nineteenth century.

"Interrogation under torture was widespread. Many of the men were anally raped, using knives, broken bottles, rifle barrels, snakes and scorpions. A favourite technique was to hold a man upside down, his head in a bucket of water, while sand was rammed into his rectum with a stick. Women were gang-raped by the guards. People were mauled by dogs and electrocuted. The British devised a special tool which they used for first crushing and then ripping off testicles. They used pliers to mutilate women’s breasts. They cut off inmates’ ears and fingers and gouged out their eyes. They dragged people behind Land Rovers until their bodies disintegrated. Men were rolled up in barbed wire and kicked around the compound." 

— Caroline Elkins, Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya, 2005

I doubt it that even the Syrian regime today is using these techniques. It has been killing countless people, but I don't think it is as creative and imaginative as the British were. 
"It is also important to recognise that the stories we consume are, for the most part, commodities produced by profit-making companies. Like other commodities, their production, value and demand are driven by market forces. This can harm those at the centre of the stories, distort our understanding of a crisis and even contribute to a sense of panic – which, in turn, provokes panicked responses from the authorities."

Rather than seeing European racism as a thing of the past, the recognition of its persistence is essential if we are to understand the refugee crisis and some of the responses to it. Thousands of people from former European colonies, whose grandparents were treated as less than human by their European rulers, have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past two decades, yet this only became a “crisis” when the scale of the disaster was impossible for Europeans to ignore.
5 myths about the refugee crisis

If you earn £25000/year before tax, it takes the Brazilian player Neymar 6 minutes to earn your weekly salary!

May be it is worth it. A footballer entertains us and makes us happy; he might even help us release some orgasmic energy! 

In doing that, he is more useful to society than a nurse or a cleaner.
"Je suis Capital Gazette" (?) Anyone?
"what’s happening today marks a dangerous new development in European politics. Until now, the effort to filter out and deter unwanted migrants from reaching Europe has generally been pursued by politicians of the liberal centre, and part of their justification for doing it is that these unpleasant but necessary policies will stave off a rightwing populist backlash."

The irrational fear of migrants ...
But is it really irrational?
Critical history is theorized history. It does not treat “theory” as an isolated corpus of texts or body of knowledge. Nor does it treat theory as a separate, non-historical form, of knowledge. Rather, it regards theory as a worldly practice (and historical artifact). The point is not for historians to become theorists; theory for theory’s sake is as bankrupt as the idea that facts can “speak for themselves.” The point is for disciplinary history to overcome its guild mentality (disciplinary essentialism) and empiricist methodology (methodological fetishism) — to interrogate its “commonsense” assumptions about evidence and reality, subjectivity and agency, context and causality, chronology and temporality. This would require serious engagement with critical theories of self, society, and history.

Theses on Theory and History
At the British Library, London

Sex, Botany and Empire

The historical gain that the fundamentalists have not privatised yet. Or, they have partially privatised, along with a steady creation of private healthcare.
Imagine how much profit a Branson could make if it is given to him and thus he speeds up  commercial travels to space!
The consevatives and the oppressors of yesteryear, portray themselves and teach their children today that they are pioneers of "liberation and freedoms."

"(Southern Indian women, whose breasts were traditionally uncovered, found themselves obliged to undergo the indignity of conforming to Victorian standards of morality; soon the right to cover one's breasts became a marker of upper-cast respectability and efforts were made to deny this privilege to lower-caste women, leading to such missionary-inspired colonial curiosities as the Breast Cloth Agitation from 1813 to 1859 in Travancore and Madras Presidency.)" 

The Indian Penal Code, "drafted by the British imperial rulers in the mid-nineteenth century criminalizes homosexuality under Section 377; creates a crime of 'sedition' under which students shouting slogans have been arrested; and applies a double standard to the commission of adultery." 

"The irony is that in India there has always been place for people of different gender identities and sexual orientations. Indian history and mythology reveal no example of Prejudice against sexual difference. On the contrary, in the great epic of Mahabharata, the gender-changing Shihkhandi killed Bhishma. The concept of the Ardhanareeshwara imagined God as half man and half woman, prompting the movie-star chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s, N. T. Rama Rao to dress up as Ardhanareeshwara and surprise his followers ... Transgender people were recognized as a napunsakh gender in Vedic and Puranic literature and were given due importance in India throughout history (and even in the Islamic courts during the Mughal era)." 

— Shashi Tharoor, Inglorious Empire, 2017 ed., pp. 94-9

The above is similar to what happened in the Middle East in nineteenth and early twentieth century, and today with the missionaries who defend "homosexuals" and women rights in the region.
Excellent! A must read.

"‘The deterioration of the intelligentsia,’ Arthur Koestler wrote, ‘is as much a symptom of disease as the corruption of the ruling class or the sleeping sickness of the proletariat. They are symptoms of the same fundamental process.’ One clear sign of intellectual infirmity is the desperation with which centrists and liberals, removed from the cockpit of American power, forage for ideas and inspiration on the lumpen right. 

What differentiated the Western model from many Asian, African and Latin American networks of women’s groups and indigenous peoples, or alternative development and environmental organisations, was its indifference to ‘economic and social rights’: what Moyn defines as ‘entitlements to work, education, social assistance, health, housing, food and water’. Focusing on the violations of individuals’ rights by states, human rights groups valuably documented the crimes of the Contras in Nicaragua, the army and death squads in El Salvador, and state terrorists in Guatemala. But they were largely indifferent to the abuse of power by non-state actors: the kleptocratic oligarchies that emerged in Asia, Africa and Latin America throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Nor did they have much to say about the terrible effects of the structural adjustment programmes implemented by the IMF and the World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s. Human rights politics and law, Moyn argues, may have sensitised us ‘to the misery of visible indigence alongside the horrific repression of authoritarian and totalitarian states – but not to the crisis of national welfare, the stagnation of the middle classes and the endurance of global hierarchy."

The mask it wears
"Turkey has been under a state of emergency since a failed coup in July 2016, with 107,000 public servants and soldiers dismissed from their jobs. More than 50,000 people have been imprisoned pending trial since the uprising."

The BBC is lost in translation. In the very same paragraph, "coup" and "uprising" were used to mean the same thing.

We know that what happened in 2016 was a coup and the major Western powers were slow to condemn it. They played watch-and-see first.

In these elections, the HDP has scored above the 10% threshold that will aloow it to enter parliament despite its leader being in prison.

The 2016 coup: an analysis by Stratfor

"Regardless of whether Erdogan is at its helm, Turkey will continue down its expansionist path, a path that was unlikely to be short-circuited by a haphazard coup led by a motley group of Islamists and nationalists. Turkey is on this course, at this stage in history, because geopolitics wills it. But nobody said it would be a smooth ride... Thus [Turkey's policy] contradictions will "become more frequent, and Turkey's actions may appear almost schizophrenic.

A Coup as Audacious as Turkey's Future

A photograph by Hadeer Mahmoud, Cairo Metro, 07 April 2016

Grenfell Tower (the residential tower in London, which was destroyed by fire in June 2017, resulting in 71 deaths) is named after Francis Grenfell, a murderer and Marshal who served in committing crimes in Egypt and South Africa and other colonies of the British Empire.

One should be proud of tens of names which adorn public places in England!
"Ultimately, the greatest power of Fahmy’s adaptation is its ability to provide the audience with few obvious escape points, fewer firm assumptions to which to return safely. Even the characters’ best dreams for themselves seem illusory, almost ill-gotten. “Let us get out of Cairo. Out of the Yacoubian Building,” Busayna muses to Zaki, “we’ll be free. We’ll be together.” But few in this world have the luxury of escaping their own history: that history lives above you, works at your feet, sticks to you like the residue of centuries, and is liable to kill you in the end."

A new adaptation of the Yacoubian Building
What I do worry about is the fact that writers have become so frightened of being political. The idea that writers are being reduced to creators of a product that is acceptable, that slips down your throat, which readers love and therefore can be bestsellers, that’s so dangerous. Today, for example in India, where majoritarianism is taking root – and by majoritarianism, I don’t just mean the government, I mean that individuals are being turned into micro-fascists by so many means. It is the mobs and vigilantes going and lynching people. So more than ever, the point of the writer is to be unpopular. The point of the writer is to say: “I denounce you even if I’m not in the majority.”

"The point if the writer is to be unpopular"
The world's biggest store of plutonium is in ...
and a few years ago the plant was breached by greenpeace activists!

An Egyptian woman back from shopping to her remote village of Qantara Sharq in Ismaiiliya.
A photo by Mohamed Ali Eddin on Everyday Egypt.

"Even as the perpetually fragmented opposition faces harsh repression, it is finding common ground in the issues of corruption and economic justice. State efforts that shut down all remaining spaces for open debate represent, in a sense, an admission that its strategies of vote rigging, gerrymandering, and soft coercion, practiced since the 1960s, have either failed or backfired. Unfortunately, the state seems to have decided to rely less on guile, and more on naked force. The labor movement is also forging new alliances in the face of opposition. Workers, both citizen and noncitizen, are confronting both a populist anti-immigrant backlash and a wave of privatization and austerity. But in response to these challenges, noncitizen workers affiliated with unions abroad have launched campaigns with Kuwaiti labor unions, which have themselves mobilized to combat cuts in wages and benefits."

Crackdowns and coalitions in Kuwait

A comment: while in the beginning there is a mention of anti-imperialist struggle, in the cocluding paragrapghs, the writer seems to hope for a "pressure" from American impeialism on the ruling family!
South Korea

"The Oracle Korea Workers Union was formed in October 2017 in response to unfair and non-transparent salary and compensation systems. The average working hours at Oracle Korea are about 80-100 hours per week, yet most workers have seen no wage increase over the last 10 years."

Oracle workers on strike
"The central point is this: identities are fluid, constantly defined and redefined through economic and political struggles. The predominance of ethnic and sectarian conflict is a phenomenon that itself needs to be explained — not assumed to be an unavoidable driver of discord."

The Tribalist Trap
Syria as an example
Note that the author while generalizing when talking about "Western-backed regimes", failed to say that in the case of Syria the regime is a Russian- and Iranian-backed regime.
To you I pledge my love
My poverty, my misery, and my debt
My failures and frustrations with my meager salary
To you I pledge my humiliation.
My head hung low and my eyes avoiding those of my children
For whom I can't provide
To you I pledge my heart!

Walid Taha, A Bit of Air
Translated from Egyptian Arabic by Anita Husen

لك حبي
وفقري وبهدلتي وأقساطي
وانحطاطي وإحباطي من مرتبي
اللي مش كافي وذلي
ودلدلة كتافي
وعيني المكسورة أدام ولادي
من قصر الأيادي
"Rocking the foundations of Islam"

The title is ridiculous. Yes, it is reductionist to say that one man, the narrator Bukhari, means Islam. It is also reductionist to imply, through the title of the article, that a book refuting al-Bukhari rocks the foundations of "Islam". 
An average Joe
Walking slow
Went home, slept .. woke
Only to find himself ...
                                an average Joe!

Walid Taher, A Bit of Air
Translated from Egyptian Arabic By Anita Husen

واحد عادي 
ماشي هادي
روح نام .. صحي
... لقى نفسه
! واحد عادي

In front of the wall ...
In front of the one who built it ...
In front of the one who made it taller ...
In front of the one who guards it
A poor guy stopped ..
And went pee pee ...

Walit Taher, A Bit of Air
Translated from Egyptian Arabic by Anita Husen

... أدام السور
... وأدام اللي بانيه
... وأدام اللي بيعليه
... وأدام اللي واقف يحميه
.. وقف راجل غلبان
... وعمل پيپيه
Plan to publish full works of Marx
A German academic is leading the project in Berlin
(An FT article for subscribers)

Housing: "No region in England and Wales is affordable for workers on median salary."

Financial Times, 15 June 2018

Documenting crimes

The First Gulf War, the chemical attack on the Iraqi village of Halabja in 1988 and the role played by foreign companies in the build-up of chemical weapons in the region were the main topics at the most recent "Visions of Iran" film festival in Cologne. 

Mazzucato draws inspiration for her activism from two sources: on the one hand the heterodox economics of Karl Polanyi and on the other hand the democratic ambition of John F Kennedy. JFK inspires Mazzucato to call for the economy to be given a “new mission”. Polanyi’s analysis of the economy as a constructed social artefact makes this seem possible. If the market was made by the state then it can presumably be remade. The question, of course, is how. Unfortunately, the boldness of Mazzucato’s vision and the brashness of her rhetoric are not matched by the depth or coherence of her answer to this basic question.

"Mariana Mazzucato's bold mission to reform the global economy"

Someone has advised me not to feel guilty by living in Britain. Here is an answer:

"I was in the Indian Police five years, and by the end of that time I hated the imperialism I was serving with bitterness which I probably cannot make clear. In the free air of England that kind of thing is not fully intelligible. In order to hate imperialism you have got to be part of it." — George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Orwell had his reasons at the time. I have my different reasons today. The fundamental remains: Britain is an imperialist state and I am part of it.
Science and Islam
(all episodes)

McGarvey is withering about “the poverty industry”, run by the middle classes, for doing things not “with the community but to it”.

Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey

Bahrain vs. Ireland
Bahrain vs. Poland
Bahrain and Tunisia vs. Spain
Turkey // Sweden, Greece, Italy
Turkey vs. Argentina
Egypt // Ireland
"The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global food production is more than adequate to feed the world. For instance, 2,577 million tons of cereal were forecasted to be produced in 2016, with 13 million tons leftover after demand is met. Worldwide we already produce over two thousand kilocalories (kcal) per person on average, the minimum level of energy humans require according to USDA dietary guidelines. Still, with all this production, 780 million people are living with chronic hunger, many of them living in rural areas dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods."

Capital's hunger in abundance
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

"As anti-foreigner sentiment, particularly during the migrant crisis, continues to plague Germany and the rest of Europe, Fear Eats the Soul has never seemed more relevant.

Made around the midpoint of his career, Fear Eats the Soul is a powerful and accessible introduction to Fassbinder’s work. It’s one of his very best films. It stars Brigitte Mira as Emmi, an elderly cleaner who falls in love with Ali (El Hedi ben Salem, Fassbinder’s lover), a much younger Moroccan immigrant. The couple face prejudice from their neighbours, and the strain threatens their relationship. Racism and xenophobia were fiercely damned by Fassbinder previously in Katzelmacher (1969) and Whity (1971), but the use of melodrama to tell this very moving love story adds a painfully human dimension to the tale." — BFI

Class struggle in Turkey

"Picture yourself in this situation: You have managed to form a trade union in your workplace.  You've gotten formal recognition from the government.  Under the law, your employer is obligated to open negotiations with you.  But the employer refuses.  So you go out on the picket line.  A year goes by, and the situation doesn't change.  What do you do?

This is what happened to workers at DHL Express in Turkey.  They have been on the picket line since 17 July 2017 -- over 300 days.  They have now turned to the international labour movement for help.  We need to send thousands of messages to the management of DHL Express to tell them to recognise the union, to open negotiations, and to play fair with their employees."

DHL vs. the trade union

"Russophobe, champion of mass violence, admirer of antisemitic thugs, more dangerous a nuclear crackpot than the original Dr. Strangelove, and advocate for economic disintegration in Russia — this is how we should remember Richard Pipes." 

— Jacobin magazine
Genealogy of an era

One should add a list of add-ons which helped gain the consent of the majority:

  • Credit cards
  • Low budget airlines
  • Gadgets and consumerism
  • Threat of an internal-external enemy vs. "our values"
  • "There is no alternative" (after the collpase of the Soviet Union)
  • A massive pile of TV series and movies
  • Promoting individual advancement (underming solidarity and trade unions)
  • Etc.

The Third Way International
Although global media outlets like the Economist have made the case that the Rohingya of Burma are the “most persecuted people in the world” for several years at this point, their plight has yet to fully register around the world.

Does that mean that what's been happening to the millions of Syrians is not persecution? The assertion above does not say "the most persecuted ethnic group." I don't understand the criteria used here and not questioned or at least qualified by the Economist and Jacobin editors.

The Catasrophe of the Rohingya
He was an antidote to the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver

Bourdain’s political transformation happened on the road to Beirut. He landed there in 2006, days before Israel bombarded the city. The episode is a verite documentary of a society upended in an instant. Lebanese journalist Kim Ghattas says that as a result, “Bourdain developed a new approach that used conversations about food to tell the story and politics of the countries he visited in ways that hard news couldn’t.”

Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)
[C]limatic facts are not facts in themselves; they assume importance only in relation to the restructuring of the environment within different systems of production.

Rolando Garcia, Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Oxford, 1981, p. 157

Global capitalism

Why is it that only two large developing capitalist economies* have succeeded in becoming part of the rich capitalist club in the last 50 yearsMeasured in GDP per capita and starting at $3000 per head (PPP real) 40 years ago, Taiwan and Korea now have per capita GDPs over $25,000. In the same period, no other Asian tiger or Latin American economy has risen above $13,000, still within the World Bank‘s middle income range. 
Note that both Taiwan and South Korea were American-supported military regimes at the peak of their economic development.

*United Arab Emirates or Singapore, for example, cannot be called "large capitalist economies" although they have a very high per capita GDP. 
India then and today

In 1750 India and China accounted for almost 75 per cent of world industrial output.

"In 1600 when East India Company was established, Britain was producing just 1.8 per cent of world's GDP, while India was generating some 23 per cent. By 1940, after nearly two centuries of the Raj, Britain accounted for nearly 10 per cent of world GDP, while India has been reduced to a poor 'third world' country, destitute and starving, a global poster child of poverty and famine. [Niall] Ferguson [an apologist historian for Imperialism] admits that 'between 1757 and 1900 British per capita gross domestic product increased in real terms by 347 per cent, Indian by a mere 14 per cent'. Even that figure masks a steadily worsening performance by the Raj: from 1900 to 1947 the rate of growth of the Indian economy was below 1 per cent, while population grew steadily at well over 3.5 per cent, leavened only by high levels of infant and child mortality that shrank the net rate of population growth to the equivalent of economic growth, leaving a net growth rate near zero.

Freedom from Britain turned these numbers around for India. Net per capita income growth between 1900 and 1950 was nil (economic growth of 0.8 per cent minus net population growth at the same level), but it rose to 1.3 per cent from 1950 to 1980 (growth rate of 3.5 per cent minus population growth of 2.2 per cent), to 3.5 per cent from 1981–90 and 4.4 per cent from 1991–2000, before attaining even higher levels in the following decade, twice crossing 9 per cent and averaging 7.8 per cent from 2001–10. Besides these, other key indices were also extraordinary good after just under 7 (at the time of writing [2016]) decades of independence, compared to the twenty decades of British rule that had gone before.

The British left a society with 16 per cent literacy, a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90 per cent living below what today we would call the poverty line. Today, the literacy rate is up at 72 per cent, average life expectancqy is nearing the Biblical three score and 10, and 280 million people have been pulled out of poverty in the twenty-first century." — Inglorious Empire, pp. 216-17

Yet today "Switzerland is not only richer than India in terms of annual production of goods and services (the ratio between the two countries’ GDP per capita at market exchange rates is about 50 to 1), but Switzerland is even more richer in terms of wealth per adult (the ratio is almost 100 to 1)."


The new government have little room to maneuver economically as they have agreed to carry over the existing PP budget for the next year as well as to respect the European Union’s fiscal rules. It is also highly unlikely they can repeal the PP’s labor reforms as this would require the support of right-wing regional nationalists. And so in terms of improving the material conditions of the working class, it will be complicated to pass any substantive measures.
In reality Sánchez is a social liberal, a descendant of Tony Blair and Gerhard Schoeder’s Third Way. He did win back the PSOE leadership [after a palace coup against him eighteen months ago] by appealing to the desire of his party’s members for a more left-wing line, but he never really believed in it himself. He should not be underestimated politically. He is extremely ambitious and determined but is more like a Macron or Albert Rivera — an empty vessel onto which you can project various ideological elements.

At the same time Rajoy’s seven years in office has been marked by a real regression in terms of civil rights and I think Sánchez’s government can make progress here, for example repealing much of Spain’s gag laws. There will also be advances on questions thrown up by Spain’s growing feminist movement and further implementation of Spain’s historical memory law. It was the Basque and Catalans who suffered most under Franco and so they will back measures in this area. Ultimately, PSOE’s objective is to create an account of its two years in office with which it can win the next elections: demonstrating a more caring, democratic politics, being able to point to cultural victories against the Right and a reduction in tensions on territorial issues."

Once the elections have been won, PSOE's Sanchez will implement further neoliberal measures. 

"There has been a certain process of “bourgeoisification” of all these new forces. This always happens to a greater or lesser extent when you enter the institutions which have their own rules and ways of doing politics. What started as something at least politically revolutionary has become institutionalized as a new multi-party system. There are parties like Podemos to the left of PSOE and Ciudadanos, which for me, is to the right of the PP. Even while Spanish society is becoming less ideological, in the parliament this new party system is in fact reinforcing the old left-right dynamic"

The Lesser Evil

In February and March 2016, nearly 35,000 Palestinian teachers initiated a series of strike actions across the West Bank. Classes were dismissed and students sent home as teachers marched through Ramallah’s streets and organized sit-ins in front of Ministry of Education field offices. Though short-lived, the strike had wide resonance as teachers utilized their waning social capital in ways they had not done since the second intifada, and encouraged members of other unions to organize industrial actions, particularly after the March 9, 2016 ratification of Social Security Law 6
This was the largest teachers’ strike in Palestinian history, and yet it was not organized by their union, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT). It was organized despite it.

A book review

"From 1965 to 1966, the Indonesian military and its allies massacred hundreds of thousands of Communists — often with the active aid of Western, democratic governments."

Indonesia's Red Slaughter

Madeleine Albright's nostalgia to 

The Good Old Days

I have always doubted the premises of the "Big Bang" theory since the beginning of 2001 when I read from Eric Lerner's book (The Big Bang Never Happened, 1993).
But, like the dominant ideology in society, the theory has been propagated like a religion.
Here is a recent piece on the New Scientist. Unfortunately, it is for subscribers only.

Why the big bang was not the beginning


"Millions of tonnes of explosives were used during the mining boom to build more than 100 new mines, but it wasn’t just prime farmland that was blasted away in the boom, it was access to the middle class. At the same time that Gina Rinehart was becoming the world’s richest woman on the back of rising iron ore prices, those on the minimum wage were falling further and further behind their fellow Australians."

How the neoliberals convinced us there wasn't enough to go around

In a recent article, former World Bank chief economist, Branko Milanovic reckoned there were two curses for European capital: immigration and rising inequality.  “The fact that the European Union is so prosperous and peaceful, compared both to its Eastern neighbors (Ukraine, Moldova, the Balkans, Turkey) and more importantly compared to the Middle East and Africa means that it is an excellent emigration destination. Not only is the income gap between the “core” Europe of the former EU15 and the Middle East and Africa huge, it has grown. Today, West European GDP per capita is just shy of $40,000 international dollars; sub-Saharan’s GDP per capita is $3,500 (the gap of about 11 to 1). In 1970, Western Europe’s GDP per capita was $18,000, sub-Saharan, $2,600 (the gap of 7 to 1). Since people in Africa can multiply their incomes by ten times by migrating to Europe, it is hardly surprising that, despite all the obstacles that Europe has recently began placing in the way of the migrants, they keep on coming.”

— Branko Milanovic

For a bigger picture, see

Inequality, poverty and 'populism'
A big disaster for the Western civilisation: more Muslims will be migrating to Europe in the coming decades.

Climate-exodus is expected in the Middle East and North Africa
Abu 'I-Alaa Al-Ma'arri (973-1057), a poet born near Aleppo, Syria

We laugh, but inept is our laughter;
We should weep and weep sore,
Who are shattered like glass, and thereafter
Re-molded no more.


Religion is a "fable invented by the ancients". 

So, too, the creeds of man: the one prevails
Until the other comes; and this one fails
When that one triumphs; ay, the lonesome world
Will always want the latest fairy-tales.


Among the crumbling ruins of the creeds
The Scout upon his camel played his reeds
And called out to his people —"Let us hence!
The pasture here is full of noxious weeds.


Hanifs are stumbling, Christians all astray
Jews wildered, Magians far on error's way.
We mortals are composed of two great schools
Enlightened knaves or else religious fools.


What is religion? A maid kept close that no eye view her;
The price of her wedding-gifts and dowry baffles the wooer.
Of all the goodly doctrine that I from the pulpit heard
My heart has never accepted so much as a single word.


Mohammed or Messiah! Hear thou me, 
The truth entire nor here nor there can be;
How should our God who made the sun and the moon
Give all his light to One, I cannot see.


They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me
that these a fiction from first to last.
O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth.
Then perish the fools who forged the religious traditions or interpreted them!


By fearing whom I trust I find my way
To truth; but trusting wholly I betray
The trust of wisdom; better far is doubt
Which brings the false into the light of day.


O fouls, awake! The rites ye sacred hold
Are but a cheat contrived by men of old
Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust
And died in baseness—and their law is dust.


Tis strange that Kurash and his people wash
Their faces in the staling of the kine;
And that the Christians say, Almighty God
Was tortured, mocked, and crucified in fine:
And that the Jews should picture Him as one
Who loves the odor of a roasting chine;
And strange still that Muslims travel far
To kiss a black stone said to be divine:
Almighty God! Will all human race 
Stray blindly from the Truth's most sacred shrine?

Source: R. A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Poetry, Cambridge, 1921


The US dropped nuclear bombs on Japan when the war had already been won. The ‘rape of Germany’ by both allied and Soviet forces after the Second World War is indicative of this ‘victorious’ sense of impunity. The effective questioning of why a party would use disproportionate violence against another party betrays an implicit notion that the accused has an interest in not alienating the local population. Ironically, such arguments denying the ‘rape of Germany’ by supporters of the allies would have undoubtedly been repeated in the same terms: “why would our forces do this when we had already won?”

Chemical attacks: why would the regime do it since it was "winning the war?"
Nancy Fraser: Marxism and feminism

Jalal Khoury

"While the Lebanese theater traces back to the 1800s, specifically to 1848 and to Maroun Nakash, it has evolved in stages. Jalal Khoury helped to pioneer the realist, or modernist, movement from the mid-1960s until his death last December at the age of 84. Considered a trailblazer of modern Lebanese political theater, and banner carrier of the realist school, Jalal Khoury, a playwright, theater director, academic and artistic editor, remained a loyal disciple of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht."

Brechtian realist forget by 1967 war, and the birth of modern Lebeanse theater
"The issue is not Sanders' own personal anti-imperialist credentials, nor is critiquing a worthy effort to end a war a holistic condemnation. The issue is the normalisation, without debate, of a "war on terror" that has produced a body count higher than that of the evil it is supposed to counter. Sanders' resolution, excluding this US war from debate on a US-backed war in the same theatre, reflects this."

How a Bernie Sanders resolution is normalising "the war on terror"

A strike and protests against reforms imposed by the IMF, an international criminal institution, causing the rise in taxes on revenues, the prices of bread, oil and other commodities.
The role of the US, the UAE, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in exasperating the crisis because of Jordan's stance on Jerusalem.
The unions and the protests are calling for the fall of the government if their demands are not met.
At least 48 migrants died after their boat capsized off the eastern coast of Tunisia
Kylie Minogue and Taylor Swift have expressed their sadness and love, and urged "a radical solution against the trafficking of people and a change in the socio-economic global system that kills people looking for a better life."
Very good!

"It is fair to say that what these essays achieve is the denigration of the very concept of agency, something at the very heart of the postcolonial project. In obscuring the effects of social circumstances, in denying — implicitly or explicitly — the role of structure, the theorists under consideration whisk away what makes political praxis distinctive as a volitional act. For what is political agency if not a form of practice aimed at the structures of power within which it is embedded? Whether it aims to reproduce them, as in ruling-class strategies, or seeks to transform and undermine them, as is the case with subaltern classes, political agency is defined by its relation to these fields of power. But with Spivak and, in particular, Guha, it seems that it is the simple exercise of will that enables the actions of their protagonists to serve as political agency — even those actions are an acquiescence to their subjugation.

Our reading confirms the observation made by other critics: that postcolonial theory has not so much enriched the critique of a globalizing capitalism as it has weakened the resources to resist it. While there is no question that the subaltern class’s political agenda must be an expansive one in this era, the struggle against capital is surely at its core. But no such struggle can be waged without a clear conception of what counts as resistance — how to distinguish between strategies that question the dominant order and those that accept its terms — and how to organize to make that resistance more effective. Women’s collective agency around their gender and class interests have to be indispensable parts of deepening that resistance. It is remarkable that in these essays, which are foundational to the development of postcolonial theory, such concerns are either denigrated or dismissed altogether. What is even more striking is that in all the commentary that they have generated, these maneuvers have either gone unnoticed or have been set aside as being of minor consequence."

Silencing the subaltern


"A new political climate, perhaps less fearful of nationalisation and more suspicious of the notion that the private sector does everything better, may sow the seeds of change."

A clever conclusion: one of the mouthpieces of the system is quite aware that some sort of a change is required/has to come to avoid a bigger crisis/to save the system from any potential threat. Thus even conservative governments, "neoliberals", might resort to "nationalisation" of some sectors of the economy. 

How Thatcherism laid the foundations of the housing crisis
A book review

Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800
Khaled El-Rouayheb, University of Chicago Press 2005


"My central contention is that Arab-Islamic culture on the eve of modernity lacked the concept of 'homosexuality,' and that writings from the period [1500-1800] do not evince the same attitude toward all aspects of what we might be inclined to call homosexuality today.

The Arab literature of the early Ottoman period (1516-1798) is replete with casual and sometimes sympathetic references to homosexual love." p. 1

"Homosexuality is condemned and forbidden by the holy law of Islam, but there are times and places in Islamic history when the ban on homosexual love seems no stronger than the ban on adultery in, say, Renaissance Italy or seventeenth-century France. Some [classical Arabic, Persian, and Turkish] poems are openly homosexual; some poets, in their collected poems, even have separate sections for love poems addressed to males and females." — Bernard Lewis, Music from a Distant Drum, Princeton 2001

"Both [Marshall] Hodgson and [Bernard] Lewis suggest that what was cultivated openly in society is precisely that which Islamic law prohibited... [T]his assumption is questionable. What Islamic law prohibits is sexual intercourse between men, especially anal intercourse. It is hardly credible to suggest that such illicit intercourse was carried out in public. What unfolded in public was presumably such things as courting and expressions of passionate love. It may seem natural for modern historians to gloss over the distinction between committing sodomy and expressing passionate love for a youth, and to describe both activities as manifestations of 'homosexuality'." P. 3

"My Lord, by Him who has granted you comeliness, splendor and beauty.
And who in your bewitching eyes has permitted lovers some licit magic.
And who has bestowed on your cheeks that thing which lovers have disputed as such length.
Grant nearness to a lover for whom infatuation is a strict duty and forgetfulness is impossible.
O gazelle! No! You are even more exalted, whose neck puts the gazelle to shame.
O namesake of al-Khalil [the epithet of the Prophet Ibrāhīm], you are cold and yet set my heart ablaze." 
— The Egyptian scholar 'Abdallah al-Shabrawī (d. 1758), depicting a young male beloved by the name of Ibrahīm in one of his collected poetry (Dīwan). Al-Shabrawī was for over thirty years Rector of the Azhar college in Cairo, perhaps the most prestigious Islamic college in the Arab-speaking world. 

"Shabrawī seems not to have had an attitude toward 'homosexuality' at all, comments El-Rouayheb, "but apparently drew a central distinction between, on the one hand, falling ardently in love with a boy and expressing this love in verse and , on the other hand, committing sodomy with a boy. Until quietly recently, it was common in Europe to tolerate or even value ardent love between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman but to condemn premarital sex. This combination of attitudes is only contradictory if one wrong-headedly insists on interpreting the coexisting judgements as expressions of both tolerance and intolerance of 'heterosexuality'. pp. 4-5

The assumption that it is unproblematic to speak of either tolerance or intolerance of homosexuality in the premodern Middle East would seems to derive from the assumption that homosexuality is a self-evident fact about the human world to which a particular culture reacts with a certain degree of tolerance or repression. From this perspective, writing the history of homosexuality is seen as analogous to writing, say, the history of women. One assumes that the concept of 'homosexuality,' like the concept of 'woman,' is shared across historical periods, and that what varies and may be investigated historically is merely the changing cultural (popular, scientific, legal, etc.) attitude towards such people. In contrast to this 'essentialist' view, a number of anthropologists, sociologists, and historians, inspired in the main by the late French philosopher Michel Foucault,have recently emphasized the 'constructed,' or historically conditioned, nature of our modern sexual categories. They claim that the concept of homosexuality (and heterosexuality) was developed in Europe in the late nineteenth century, and that though its meaning may overlap with earlier concepts such as 'sodomite' or 'invert,' it is not, strictly speaking, synonymous with these. For example, Foucault stressed that the term 'sodomite' applied to the perpetrator of an act; someone who was tempted to commit sodomy but refrained out of moral or religious considerations was thus not a sodomite. By contrast, the category 'homosexual' would include someone who has the inclination, even if it is not translated into action. On this account, homosexuality is no more a synonym for sodomy than heterosexuality is equivalent to fornication." p. 5

"The adjudication of the dispute between constructionists and essentialists should of course be based on a careful investigation of the historical evidence. To avoid prejudging the issue, close attention will have to be paid to the pre-modern—in this case Arabic—terms and phrases used in various contexts to designate acts and actors that we would incline to call 'homosexual'.

What Islamic scholars condemned was not 'homosexuality' but liwāt, that is, anal intercourse between men. Writing a love poem of a male youth would simply not fall under the juridical concept of liwāt. 

The possibility at issue is precisely whether pre-nineteenth-century Arab-Islamic culture lacked the concept of homosexuality altogether, and operated instead with a set of concepts (like ubnah or liwāt) each of which pick out some of the acts and actors we might call 'homosexual' but which were simply not seen as instances of one overarching phenomenon. In the course of this study I hope to show that this was indeed the case. I argue that distinctions not captured by the concept of 'homosexuality' were all-important from the perspective of the culture of the period. One such distinction is that between the 'active' and the 'passive' partner in a homosexual encounter—these were typically not conceptualized or evaluated in the same way. Another distinction is that between passionate infatuation (`ishq) and sexual lust—emphasizing this distinction was important for those who would argue for the religious permissibility of the passionate love of boys. A third distinction centers on exactly what sexual acts were involved—Islamic law prescribed severe corporal or capital punishment for anal intercourse between men, but regarded, say, kissing, fondling, or non-anal intercourse as less serious transgressions." p. 6

"Writing before the term 'homosexuality' was introduced into the English language, [Richard] Burton still assumed that he was faced with one phenomenon, 'pederasty,' which he claimed was widespread in the Islamic world and regarded as at worst a peccadillo. He believed that this was due to the 'blending of masculine and feminine temperaments' in the region. More recent commentators often proceed in the same fashion. The article 'Liwāt' in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, published exactly one hundred years after Burton's essay, notes that homosexuality was prohibited by Islamic law but nevertheless widely practiced and tolerated in Islamic history after the eighth century." p. 7

In the present study I focus on the Arab-speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire from the early sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. The nineteenth century saw the beginning of the encroachment of Western values and ideas upon the region. As I will briefly discuss in my conclusion, the encounter with European Victorian morality was to have profound effects on local attitudes that came to be called 'sexual inversion' or 'sexual perversion' (shudhūth jinsī). The present work should hopefully set the stage for a study of this profound change." p. 9

"Within one culture (and subculture), the same act may be appraised differently according to the interest of the observer, the way in which the act becomes a public knowledge, whether it is carried out discreetly or flauntingly, whether the perpetrator is male or female, young or old, a friend or a rival, a prominent religious scholar or a common soldier, and so on. In the words of the anthropologist J. Pitt-Rivers: 
A system of values is never a homogeneous code of abstract principles obeyed by all the participants in a given culture and able to be extracted from an informant with the aid of a set of hypothetical questions, but a collection of concepts which are related to one another and applied differently by the different status groups by age, sex, class, occupation, etc. in the different social ... contexts in which they find their meaning.

The significance attributed to biological gender seems to vary both geographically and historically. Whereas some cultures are relatively androgynous, other cultures have strongly developed gender roles, sometimes to the point of 'gender polarity' — that is, valuing, on the whole, opposing character traits in the two sexes, such as timidity in women and assertiveness in men. The early Ottoman Arab East evidently belonged to the latter category, with its separate and clearly demarcated male and female spheres, which legitimately overlapped only in certain well-defined contexts."
Ibid., p. 25

"In the 'homosexual' world of the early Arab East, sexual symbolism was thus never far from the surface. Yet actual sexual intercourse between adult men was clearly perceived as an anomaly, linked either to violence (rape) or disease (ubnah). Homosexual relations in the early Ottoman Arab East were almost always conceived as involving an adult man (who stereotypically would be the 'male' partner) and an adolescent boy (the 'female')." Ibid., p. 26

"A mother in sixteenth-century Aleppo ended her son's apprenticeship with a tailor when she learned that the master had developed a liking for him, and one of the students of the Allepine scholar Radī al-Dīn ibn al-Hanbalī (d. 1563) was evicted from the doorsteps of his beloved's home by the boy's father. Other parents seem to have been willing to look the other way, especially if the suitor came from socioeconomic class far above their own. The attention of a rich notable would often translate itself into concrete material benefits for both the boy and his parents. The Damascene judge Ahmed al-Shuwaykī (d. 1598) was, according to a colleague, in the habit of paying regular subsidies to the youths he courted, as well as conferring certain 'worldly benefits' upon their parents." , ibid., 28

"The case of Māmāyah al-Rūmī lends support to the idea that sexual interest in boys was not necessarily the effect of the segregation—and hence 'unavailability"—of women, but could just as well be the result of a considered decision to remain unmarried. In a long poem in his Dīwån, he described how he had been hounded into divorcing his wife by his mother-in-law and her family. He concluded the poem by expressing his resolve to avoid women and to resort to beardless boys when lust got the better of him... Many of those who courted boys were married, and this was not depicted by the sources as in any way remarkable or strange. At most, the husband's pederastic escapades were said to have led to domestic discord because of resentment and jealousy on the part of the wife... It is possible that early marriage was the prerogative of the wealthier segment of the population, but the abundant we have concerning pederasty in the premodern Arab East relate primarily to this social class, so that the purported explanation of the widespread 'homosexuality' in terms of the unavailability of women still fails to gain any credence. It is also worth mentioning that there is evidence for the availability of female prostitution in the major Arab cities during the centuries under consideration." Ibid., pp. 29-30

"The prominent Syrian mystic Muhammad ibn 'Irāq (d. 1526) veiled his son 'Ali between the age of eight and sixteen, 'to keep people from being enchanted by him," suggesting that by the latter age his features were deemed by the father to be developed enough to make him unattractive to other men." Ibid., p. 31

"The homosexuality represented in the texts of the early Ottoman period was, on the whole, of the pederastic, 'transgenerational' or 'age-structured' type well known from classical Greece and Rome. It is not that this was the only type that was thought to exist; nor was it the only type that was acceptable—it was not acceptable to many—but it was the type that was conceived as being usual." Ibid., p. 33

"According to a tradition which goes back to Plato, and which has been shown ... to have survived in Islamic mysticism, a beautiful human countenance, typically in the form of a handsome beardless youth, could serve as the channel for the manifestation of absolute, divine beauty." , p. 37

"A couplet by the Meccan judge Ahmad al-Murshidī (d. 1638) also associated the Sufis of his age with gluttony, drinking wine, sodomy, and the playing of musical instruments:

The Sufis of the age and time; the Sufis of the wine-press and the eating-tray.
They have outdone the people of Lot by adding the beating of drums to fornication." P. 37

"The biographical literature offers several examples of rumoured pederastic relations between notables and their slaves or servants."

The Palestinian scholar Muhammad al-Saffārīnī noted that liwāt in his time was especially wide-spread among 'theTurks' (al-atrāk), and since there is no evidence that Saffārīnī travelled to the Turkish-speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire, it is likely that 'the Turks' he encountered and passed judgement on were mostly members of the political, military, and judicial elite." P. 41

"The difference in terms of actual behavior between 'the inclination to boys' and 'the inclination to beauty' need not have been particularly great, and it is clear that the two terms were often alternative ways of describing the same behavioral pattern." P. 56

"The Turkish judge and poet Bāqī (d. 1600) composes lines praising the beauty of a certain youth. The youth in question hears the lines, is impressed by them, and resolves to kiss the feet of the poet. But when attempting to do so, Bāqī reminds him that he had composed the poem with his mouth, not his feet." The Damascene scholar Ramadān al-`Utayfī (d. 1684) narrates the story of the deputy governor of Tripoli, ’Alī Sayfā: " ’Alī is sitting with a handsome youth at an elevated place at the outskirts of the town. The youth comments on the beautiful view—the red sand, the green meadow, and the blue sea. The governor subsequently asks the youth why he let unmentioned the white dune (kathīb) behind him—thereby alluding to the boy's rear." P. 58

Rifā'ah al-Tahtāwī (d. 1873), who was in Paris around the same time the great nineteenth-century Orientalist and Arabist Edward Lane was in Egypt, commented on the unacceptability of pederasty in that country [France]: 

'One of the positive aspects of their language and poetry is that it does not permit the saying of ghazal [love poetry] of someone of the same sex, so in the French language a man cannot say: I loved a boy (ghulām), for that would be unacceptable and awkward wording, so therefore if one them translates one of our books he avoids this by changing the wording, so saying in the translation: I loved a young girl (ghulāmah) or a person (dhātan).'" El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality, p. 62

My comment: That was how Victorian morality of the Orientalists and colonialists influenced the Arab-Muslim intellectuals of the period. See Jospeh Massad's Desiring Arabs.

"One may also legitimately conclude that a poem is pederastic when the beloved's male name is indicated in the poem, or he is described as a craftsman, or as entering a mosque or a public bath. Conversely, bracelets, anklets, veils, red-tipped fingers, earrings, or pigtails would usually indicate that a female is being eulogized. However, in terms of frequency of occurrence, mention of beard-down remains the major indicator of the gender of the beloved in love poetry. This implies that the poems that are clearly pederastic outnumber the ones that are clearly 'heterosexual' since the absence of references to beard-down usually leaves it undetermined whether a woman or a beardless boy is being praised. In many, perhaps most, cases the gender of the beloved cannot be ascertained, and this is a significant fact in itself." p. 64

Many similes "are used ad nauseam in the love poetry of the period, with no regard to the fender of the described object. In other words, it was largely the same features that were represented as being attractive in females and male youths. Being measured by the same yardstick, the beauty of women and youths was fundamentally comparable. "He is more beautiful than you," an Aleppine [someone from Aleppo, Syria] tailor enamored of his apprentice was reported to have told his jealous wife" p. 65

"In addition, many poets often chose to contrast, rather than gloss over, the charm of boys and women. Comparing the merits of the love of boys and the love of women was a conventional topic of classical Arabic literature, at least since the time of al-Jāhiz (d. 869)." p. 67

Public gender segregation "did not make 'heterosexual' outlets unavailable to men—most adult men were married and those who were not could resort to prostitutes—but it did pose no obstacle to the kind of ambiguous, jesting courtship of which the poet was apparently so fond. It is of course also unlikely that public gender segregation succeeded in preventing all illicit affairs between men and women." p. 69

"sexual and aesthetic preferences are not the same thing as sexual orientation ... A good example of how modern sexual categories are inadequate to understanding the genre of mufākharah [an epistle to the disputation] is the following couplet by the Damascene poet Ibrāhīm al-Akramī (d. 1638):

To the censurer who reproached me for loving boys I professed a noble motto:
I am but a son of Adam and therefore only ever fancy (ahwā) sons of Adam." p. 70

"The love of boys loomed large in the Arabic belles-lettres of the early Ottoman period. Passionate love was by far the most favorite theme in belles-lettres, and the portrayed beloved seem more often than not to have been a teenage boy. The idea—still widespread among modern specialists in Arabic literature—that premodern Arabic love poetry as a rule portrayed a female beloved may be true when it comes to pre- or early Islamic poetry. It is not true of Arabic poetry from the ninth to the nineteenth century. As far as the early Ottoman period is concerned, the gender of the portrayed beloved, when it is indicated by the poem itself or by the supplementary remarks of the anthologist or redactor, is more often male than female." p. 75

"The lyrics of modern pop songs are not expected to reflect the real-life experiences of their singers or composers, but this does not imply that there is not an intimate connection between the lyrics and the values and assumptions of contemporary culture. One can hardly imagine a Frank Sinatra or Tom Jones singing about his love for a downy-cheeked boy of fourteen, and their audience would hardly react positively if they did... One might at the very least conclude from the profuseness of explicitly pederastic poetry in the premodern Middle East that images of an adult man pining for a teenage youth and begging for a rendez-vous or a kiss did not arouse disgust or derision among listeners." p. 77

"[T]he idea that pederastic liaisons were a common and visible part of the culture of the premodern Arab-Islamic East does not rest on the evidence of belles-lettres. It can be established solely on the basis of the biographical, homiletic, and juridical literature, as well as Western travel literature, of the period." p. 79

"The 'realist' perspective could be utilized by poets who on other occasions contributed to the idealization of refined, unconsummated love. The resulting poetry tends to have a marked deflationary character, and clearly parodies the established discourse of chaste and tragic love. [The physician Dāwūd] al-Antākī [d.1599] cited a poet as saying:

They say to me, 'By God, what would you do if your beloved visited you?' I said, 'Fuck him.'

In a similar vein, Ahmad al-Khafājī composed the following couplet: 

Since he whom I fancy visited me, he offered me drink from a mouth [as intoxicating as] wine.
And his buttocks said to me from behind him: 'Today wine and tomorrow action.' p. 87

"The inversion of roles extends to the poetic imagery; in love poetry it was the beloved whose eyes were like swords wreaking havoc with the lover and setting his interior aflame. It is instructive to compare this with the defamatory passages cited in the beginning of chapter I, in which the penis penetrates and ravishes the receptive partner like a weapon. Sexual roles as a rule mirrored nonsexual relations of power, the sexually dominant (the penetrator) also being the socially dominant (the man, the husband, the master). Love, on the other hand, tended to overturn the established social order, causing a master to be enthralled by his slave, and a prominent Muslim scholar like Muhammad al-'Urdī (later to become Muftī in Aleppo) to be captivated by a Christian boy working in wine shop." p. 90

"It has hitherto been taken for granted that the adoption of a deflationary or an idealist perspective on love was independent whether the beloved was a woman or a boy. This seems to have been the rule in the premodern Arab-Islamic Middle East. It was of course not the rule in Europe, where idealization was normally confined to 'heterosexual' love. An interesting debate on this issue unfolded in the 1820s between the English traveler James Silk Buckingham, familiar from his own culture with idealist perceptions of love between unmarried men and women, initially responded with sympathy when his companion told him that he had a Christian beloved in Baghdad. When he found out that the beloved was a boy, he 'shrunk back from the confession as a man would recoil from a serpent on which he had unexpectedly trodden.'" p. 92

"The concept of male homosexuality did not exist in the Arab-Islamic Middle East in the early Ottoman period."

"Al-Khatīb al-Adnānī, in a recent book (published in 1999) on fornication and 'homosexuality' in Arabic history, subsumes sodomy, effeminate passivity, the love of boys, and lesbianism under the term shudhūth jinsī [sexual deviation]... He is apparently unaware that the concept of shudhūth jinsī is Western in origin, and that two centuries earlier it was European travelers who complained about the openness with which men in the Ottoman Empire expressed their passion for boys." p. 160

Global Poverty

The Science of (Not) Ending Global Poverty